Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Local Headlines

Snowmaking Foes File New Lawsuit


By Daniel Kraker

Flagstaff, AZ – Critics of a plan to make artificial snow with reclaimed wastewater at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort are suing the U.S. Forest Service.

The lawsuit comes more than three months after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal from several Indian tribes that wanted to block the snowmaking plan. The Hopi, Navajo and other tribes had argued the plan violated their religious freedom. Snowbowl is located in the Coconino National Forest high on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks mountains the tribes hold sacred.

This lawsuit, filed by the Save the Peaks Coalition and nine citizens, focuses on environmental and public health issues. Attorney Howard Shanker, who represented the tribes in the previous lawsuit, is representing the plaintiffs. He says the government failed to adequately analyze the potential impacts of using reclaimed wastewater to make snow.

"We're turning our children and people who ski into lab test rats, because we don't know what the impacts would be of this type of exposure."

A three judge panel of the 9th circuit court of appeals did rule that the Forest Service failed to consider the possibility of ingesting snow made with reclaimed water. But the full appellate court later overturned that decision. Attorney Janice Schneider represented Snowbowl before the appeals court in 2007.

"It meets all state surface water and federal drinking water standards," she argued. "Whether we like it or not, our drinking water contains a lot of this stuff that is included in this water."

The Arizona Snowbowl has not yet begun installing the pipeline and other infrastructure needed to make the artificial snow. The plaintiffs in this new lawsuit have asked for an injunction to prevent any construction until their case is heard.