U.S. Water News Online
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — American Indian tribes are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court's decision that allows for snowmaking on an Arizona peak the tribes consider sacred.
In their petition filed recently, the tribes contend the use of treated wastewater to make snow violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and could contaminate natural resources.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco cleared the way for the snowmaking last August after a yearlong battle. The court also granted a request to delay any construction at the ski resort northwest of Flagstaff until the high court decides whether it will hear the tribes' appeal.
The Supreme Court takes only about 1 percent of the cases it receives.
The ski resort had planned to add a fifth chair lift, spray man-made snow and clear about 100 acres of forest to extend its ski season, which Snowbowl officials have said would be more predictable with snowmaking.
Indian tribes sued the resort and the Forest Service in 2005 to block the expansion. A federal judge's ruling a year later cleared the way for the use of snowmaking equipment using reclaimed water piped from Flagstaff, upholding an earlier decision by the Coconino National Forest.
The tribes appealed, and a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with them last July. The full court later reviewed the decision and reversed it.
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