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Feb 22
Feb 22

PEAKS ALERT!!!: Snowbowl May Start Construction by Next Week

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WINDOW ROCK – Delegate Walter Phelps made a vain attempt Thursday to again bring up for discussion a resolution supporting the use of groundwater for artificial snow-making at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort near Flagstaff.

Last Thursday, the Naa'bik'iyati' Committee tabled Phelps' bill until the Navajo Nation Council's Spring Session.

Naa'bik'iyati' met Thursday morning to set the agenda for a special Council session to follow immediately after the committee meeting. Because the petition for a special session referenced only one item, the committee bogged down in discussion on whether other items legally could be added to the agenda.

It was a gray area, however, so the committee, rather than Council, heard reports on Navajo water rights settlements and bond financing, then considered two resolutions, which delayed start of the Council session until 4 p.m.

When Speaker Johnny Naize asked for announcements, Phelps said he had just received word that Snowbowl owners will be proceeding with construction next week on a pipeline to carry reclaimed sewer water from the city of Flagstaff to the ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks, a sacred mountain which Arizona tribes believe will be defiled by its use. Phelps had presented the groundwater solution as an alternative to preserve the sacredness of the mountain.

Naize said the matter was tabled and would be dealt with in April.

“I think our people need to know that the pipeline is now going to be connected to the city limits and the use of reclaimed water is now inevitable. Council is not going to address and take a position on the legislation until spring session. By that time, the construction will be complete,” Phelps said afterward.

When contacted late Thursday, Snowbowl General Partner Eric Borowsky said he had spent the day in a meeting with the president of the construction company and general manager going over construction plans. Engineering companies are finalizing drawings for the pump houses and reservoirs, and construction is expected to start in early March in the lower elevations and in April on the mountain once ski season is over.

“Down at the lower elevation where we have to build the pipeline back into Flagstaff eight miles to pick up the reclaimed water, he could be working right now. There's five miles of 12-inch steel pipe sitting there already. He wants to start right away, and I've been holding off while the Navajo Nation was considering if they could support the alternative source of water,” Borowsky said.

“I would like to thank everyone who supported using groundwater to make snow at the Snowbowl instead of reclaimed water. Unfortunately, the Navajo Nation has not been able to support this alternative so we will now move forward with our construction plans.”

The $15 million project will consist of 15 miles of 12-inch pipe extending from the city of Flagstaff to the ski area, and approximately 10 miles of pipe to be constructed on the ski runs. The Snowbowl expansion is expected to add 332 full-time jobs to the city of Flagstaff and have an annual economic impact of $50 million.

“It will give consistency to our business so we'll be able to hire more people and stop worrying about how much snow is falling,” Borowsky said.

Working with current and former Council members to try to come up with a peacemaking solution, Snowbowl owners voluntarily stopped construction in October.

“It's been a very mild winter. We could have continued going back toward town and we would have been finished with that section of the pipeline already. But it was well worth the effort to try to come up with a better solution – one that the Navajo Nation would be happier with. But we've got to have this project done by October,” he said.

“I'm always available to consider other alternatives. We can change things. But if they wait till April, it's too late.”

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Written by Kathy Helms - Dine Bureau - Gallup Independent