Arizona Snowbowl vote postponed, new meeting Thursday

Posted By: The Ski Channel on August 31, 2010 10:20 am

The Flagstaff City Council postponed a vote last night that would have decided whether to make drinking water available to Arizona Snowbowl for use in snowmaking at the ski area.

Following more than 7 hours of contentious debate at the public meeting held in Sinagua Middle School auditorium, the council decided it did not want to make a decision into the early morning, thereby delaying the vote until Thursday.

The new council meeting will be September 2nd at Flagstaff City Hall at 10 a.m.

The latest voter’s meeting comes nearly eight years after the Flagstaff City Council originally approved a 25-year contract with Arizona Snowbowl for reclaimed wastewater to be used in snowmaking. Because Arizona Snowbowl operates on U.S. Forest Service land, Native Americans and environmentalists took the water issue to federal court in 2006 claiming the affected land was sacred in their culture and went against their traditions.

Eventually, courts ruled in favor of the ski area and the Forest Service. However, tribes subsequently filed a civil lawsuit, claiming that the wastewater plan posed a public health risk.

With that lawsuit still pending, the U.S. Department of Agriculture stepped in with an alternative in hopes of mediating between the ski area and tribes. Instead of using treated wastewater, The U.S.D.A. proposed using drinking water and agreed to provide the ski area a grant to cover the additional costs.

Ski area and local business owners have expressed support for the modified plan citing an integral need for consistent snowmaking to justify more resort investments, but local Native American tribes and environmentalist groups have remained strongly opposed.

The U.S.D.A. recently issued a permit to construct the necessary pipeline to bring the water from Flagstaff to the ski area, but the plan still needs to be approved by the Flagstaff City Council, which was the purpose of Monday’s meeting.