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KNAU and Arizona News

Snowbowl finally issued snowmaking permit


By Daniel Kraker

Flagstaff, AZ –
For the past several months the US Department of Agriculture has tried to reach a compromise between the ski area and tribes that oppose the use of reclaimed wastewater to make artificial snow on the Peaks. The original plan called for Snowbowl to use water directly from the city of Flagstaff's treated wastewater plant.

But this permit also could allow Snowbowl to use what's known as "stored" water treated wastewater that's allowed to naturally filter deep underground. Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick has been pushing for the alternative water source.

"This permit gives us the control and the flexibility we need to move forward. We can find the right balance of encouraging growth, protecting our environment and respecting our tribal communities."

But it doesn't seem that the new water source is any more palatable to tribes. Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa has said he opposes snowmaking using either source. The Sierra Club's Andy Bessler says tribal leaders he's spoken to have said the same thing. Bessler says he was surprised by the USDA's decision.

"The decision I thought they were making is, compromise, Obama style, see what the opposition is, work out a solution, and they obviously haven't worked out a solution. True solution lies in consulting with tribal leaders, and the Flagstaff community on a solution that works for everybody."

The permit goes into effect July 12th. But it's still unclear where the city of Flagstaff stands on the new water source. The city's Water Commission tabled making a recommendation on "stored water" at a meeting in April, after several people spoke out against using potable water for snowmaking.

There are also questions about whether using a new water source would trigger another environmental review. In issuing the permit, Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart said the use of higher quality water does not require additional analysis. But attorney Howard Shanker, who represents the Navajo Nation, disagrees. He says he'll ask for a temporary restraining order to prevent the permit from going into effect.