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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The city has signed off on a five-year
contract extension to sell treated wastewater for snowmaking at the
Arizona Snowbowl ski area, even as a federal appeals court ponders
the legality of using the water.
The extension was approved without action by the Flagstaff City
Council as an administrative matter, city officials said. The
contract carries three five-year renewal options.
The ski area plans to being snowmaking operations next winter if a
federal appeals court now weighing an appeal by Indian tribes doesn't
The project would use up to 1.5 million gallons of treated
Flagstaff wastewater a day from November through February. It would
be piped 14.8 miles from Flagstaff, across Lowell Observatory and
into a 10 million gallon storage pond.
Several Indian tribes, including the Navajo Nation, have sued to
stop the snowmaking plan, alleging that a ski resort expansion and
the use of reclaimed water is an affront to their religion and its
existence. They also argued that the water may be harmful.
U.S. District Judge Paul Rosenblatt of Phoenix ruled in January
the tribes "failed to present any objective evidence that their
exercise of religion will be impacted by the Snowbowl upgrades." The
tribes appealed, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case
in September. A ruling is pending.
The 777-acre resort rests on the western flank of the San
Francisco Peaks that have spiritual and religious meaning to 13
tribes in the Southwest.
The ski resort has had several dismal years this decade because of
lack of snow and currently has about 2 inches of snow on the ground.
General Manager J.R. Murray said he hopes storms expected this
weekend are enough to allow the slopes to open.
He said skiers would have been on the slopes a week ago if
Snowbowl could make snow.
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