Snowbowl construction delayed
By CYNDY COLE
Sun Staff Reporter
With five days to go until construction on new trails and snowmaking facilities could have started at Arizona Snowbowl, the Forest Service, ski business and environmental groups compromised on not logging or building anything until at least October.
The environmental groups agreed to speed up their lawsuit in return for Snowbowl and the Forest Service delaying construction while the case is in court.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Rosenblatt persuaded the parties to make the agreement after daylong arguments over whether Rosenblatt should grant an injunction.
"We are pleased the court has agreed to schedule this trial in October," Snowbowl General Manager J.R. Murray said in a statement. "We look forward to getting this litigation behind us."
The Snowbowl has long struggled with short ski seasons because of lack of snow and unpredictable weather. If it is allowed to make snow starting next winter, it would mean steadier business.
Six tribes, two individuals, two environmental groups and the Flagstaff Activist Network are suing the Forest Service for its decision to allow Snowbowl to make snow with reclaimed wastewater, saying it violates the sanctity of the mountains and might be unhealthy.
"We still have to talk about the merits of our case and part of it is the need to continue to recognize all those things that the Forest Service didn't do," Sierra Club environmental justice coordinator Robert Tohe said.
Tohe and the lawyer for his side, Howard Shanker, have argued the Forest Service didn't properly consult every tribe before making its decision and that the decision is illegal because it violates religious freedoms.
Aside from making snow, the Snowbowl would replace some ski lifts with faster ones and realign others. The new Sunset Lift would reach much farther up Mount Agassiz, a new lift would be built on the side of Mount Humphreys and two other lifts would be moved, leaving trails in their place. About 76 acres of spruce-fir forest would be removed and 48 acres would be thinned under the upgrade plan now being litigated.
About 250 acres would be bulldozed during construction and 400 parking spaces would be added.
Manmade snow made from reclaimed wastewater piped from Flagstaff would cover up to 205 acres