District Offices with
addresses & phones

Coconino Natl' Forest
Supervisor's Office

1824 S. Thompson St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Office: (928) 527-3600
Fax: (928) 527-3620

Mon-Fri, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

 

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Projects

Snowbowl Facilities Improvement

Snow Making FanIn February 2005, the Coconino National Forest released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Arizona Snowbowl Improvement project.

Coconino National Forest Supervisor Nora Rasure selected Alternative 2, which calls for a broad set of upgrades and improvements to the ski area. The major aspect of the selected alternative is the addition of snowmaking to the resort. When the infrastructure is completed, the resort will be able to make artificial snow using reclaimed wastewater on just over 200 acres of skiing terrain. The decision also allows for improvements in the ski area's lift capacity, the addition of 74 acres of new ski runs, the construction of a managed snowplay area and improvements to the guest services (lodges) at Snowbowl. Additional improvements and upgrades to the ski area are described in the FEIS.

 

 

RECORD OF DECISION

Arizona Snowbowl Facilities Improvements FEIS and Forest Plan Amendment #21 - USDA Forest Service - Peaks Ranger District, Coconino National Forest Coconino County, Arizona

Volume One:

Volume Two:

Final EIS For The Arizona Snowbowl Facilities Improvements Proposal, Volume 2, Response To Comments On The Draft EIS

  • Section 1a (134 pages, Cover, Cover Sheet, Table of Contents, pages 1 through 131 - 1413 kb .pdf)
  • Section 1b (134 pages, pages 132 through 265 - 1091 kb .pdf)
  • Section 2a - Response to Comments (20 pages, pages A-1 through A-19 - 1359 kb .pdf)
  • Section 2b - Response to Comments (20 pages, A-20 through A-39 - 1173 kb .pdf)
  • Section 2c - Response to Comments(20 pages, A-40 through A-59 - 1163 kb .pdf)
  • Section 2d - Response to Comments (20 pages, A-60 through A-79 - 1161 kb .pdf)
  • Section 2e - Response to Comments and Comment Letters Received (20 pages, A-80 through A-90, B-1 through B-9 - 1167 kb .pdf)
  • Section 2f - Comment Letters Received (20 pages, B-10 through B-29 - 1287 kb .pdf)
  • Section 2g - Comment Letters Received (17 pages, B-30 through B-46 - 1149 kb .pdf)
  • Section 2h - Comment Letters Received (21 pages, B-47 through B-67 - 1260 kb .pdf)

 

Three .zip files of the above

  1. Record of Decision
  2. Volume 1
  3. Volume 2

March 2007 - Court Decision

The 9th Circuit Court has released its decision on improvements at the AZ Snowbowl. The ruling is not in favor of the Forest Service.

August 2008 through February 2012

In August 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the same court who issued the 2007 decision in favor of plaintiff's the Navajo Nation) re-visited their 2007 decision via an 'en banc' hearing and reversed this decision, thus upholding the Forest Service's decision on Snowbowl. En Banc Desicion (172kb .pdf)

This revised decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, but they declined to hear the case, thus letting the August 2008 en banc decision stand.

On September 21, 2009 a group named Save the Peaks filed a new lawsuit on the 2005 decision approving artificial snow-making at Snowbowl Ski Area. This lawsuit was decided in the favor of the Forest Service in the District Court of Arizona on December 1, 2010. December 2010 Court Decision (117kb .pdf)

Save the Peaks appealed the December 2010 District Court Decision. On February 9, 2012 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided again in favor of the Forest Service in this Court Decision (191kb .pdf).

 

 

Snowbowl FEIS Frequently Asked Questions

 

General

Can you summarize the Snowbowl decision announced on March 8, 2005?

How much has the process cost?

Who has paid for these costs?

What’s the next step in the process?

When can the upgrades be started at the Snowbowl?

How likely is this decision to be appealed and litigated?

Does Snowbowl really need a developed snow play area?

How does this decision relate to the decision in 1979 and wasn’t the FS sued over that decision?

Snowmaking and Hydrology

Do you think snowmaking is the best use of reclaimed water, given the Southwest’s continuing drought and our normal desert climate?

Is using reclaimed water the best option for making snow?

How can you guarantee that Snowbowl will always have reclaimed water to make snow? What if the City finds more important needs for it in the future?

How does this proposal affect the regional water supply/quality?

Does the EIS show conclusively that use of reclaimed water for snowmaking does not present a threat to human health from heavy metals, PPCPs (pharmaceuticals and personal care products), or other organic or inorganic constituents?

Are there health hazard associated with snow made from reclaimed water?

Cultural/Native American

What direction does the Coconino NF follow when it comes to Native American involvement?

How does the Forest Service reach out to tribes?

Economics

Who is responsible for financing the upgrades at the Snowbowl?

How much economic benefit will Flagstaff see from snowmaking?


General

Can you summarize the Snowbowl decision announced on March 8, 2005?
Coconino National Forest Supervisor Nora Rasure selected Alternative 2, which calls for a broad set of upgrades and improvements to the ski area. The major aspect of the selected alternative is the addition of snowmaking to the resort. When the infrastructure is completed, the resort will be able to make artificial snow using reclaimed wastewater on just over 200 acres of skiing terrain. The decision also allows for improvements in the ski area’s lift capacity, the addition of 74 acres of new ski runs, the construction of a managed snowplay area and improvements to the guest services (lodges) at Snowbowl. Additional improvements and upgrades to the ski area are described in the FEIS.

How much has the process cost?
This environmental analysis has cost approximately $1 million over two and a half years. This is a normal amount of money for a project of this scope.

Who has paid for these costs?
The AZ Snowbowl has funded the majority of the costs for the analysis. It is typical for a proponent of a large project to bear the costs of analysis in order to proceed in a more expedient manner.

What’s the next step in the process?
Once the decision is published in the newspaper of record, the Arizona Daily Sun, the decision will enter a 45-day appeal period. Any appeals will be filed with the Regional Forester of the Southwestern Region, who will make a determination on the points made in the appeal.

When can the upgrades be started at the Snowbowl?
That depends. Upgrades at the ski area cannot be implemented until after the decision has made it through the 45-day appeal period. That means that any appeals filed must be resolved, or the project must not have been appealed.

How likely is this decision to be appealed and litigated?
Controversial decisions are commonly appealed, so an appeal filed over this decision won’t be surprising. We do not know if the decision will be litigated.

Does Snowbowl really need a developed snow play area?
The local community has a strong desire to have a safe and developed snow play facility to meet the demands of visitors and locals. People want to play in Northern Arizona snow, and many want to play on the Peaks. Thus far, other options do not meet this demand. A developed snowplay area at the Snowbowl could be an important component to a long-term solution to the snowplay issue in Northern Arizona.

How does this decision relate to the decision in 1979 and wasn’t the FS sued over that decision?
The 1979 EIS forms a vital foundation for the current decision. Because of the 1979 decision, removing the ski area was not an alternative considered in detail. That decision also established some baseline parameters for the ski area’s comfortable carrying capacity and other aspects of the current Snowbowl decision. The Arizona Snowbowl currently operates under a valid master plan authorized by the 1979 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Forest Service decided that the Snowbowl’s proposed improvements, including snowmaking, warranted a new EIS.

The Forest Service was sued in federal court in 1981 over the 1979 EIS and decision. The 1979 decision was eventually upheld by the U.S. District court, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and by the U.S. Supreme Court (which refused to hear an appeal of the appellate court’s decision affirming the Forest Service).

Snowmaking and Hydrology

Do you think snowmaking is the best use of reclaimed water, given the Southwest’s continuing drought and our normal desert climate?
Use of reclaimed water is a public policy decision that is outside the scope of our study. The City of Flagstaff has approved providing reclaimed water for this use, and the ADEQ has certified A+ reclaimed water for snowmaking.

Is using reclaimed water the best option for making snow?
Using reclaimed water for snowmaking is a feasible option. Other options would include drilling a well and hauling potable water. Given the long-term water predicament Arizona and other states in the west are facing, using reclaimed water to make snow is an environmentally and economically responsible decision.

How can you guarantee that Snowbowl will always have reclaimed water to make snow? What if the City finds more important needs for it in the future?
That question is outside the scope of our decision. The Coconino National Forest cannot predict what the City of Flagstaff will decide to do with its reclaimed water in the future. Loss of this source of water is an inherent risk that the parties involved understand.

How does this proposal affect the regional water supply/quality?
The FEIS concludes a negligible net effect to the groundwater supply beneath Flagstaff. The reduction in aquifer recharge resulting from creating artificial snow is a minute fraction of the normal annual recharge into the regional aquifer.

Does the EIS show conclusively that use of reclaimed water for snowmaking does not present a threat to human health from heavy metals, PPCPs (pharmaceuticals and personal care products), or other organic or inorganic constituents?
Flagstaff’s reclaimed water meets all state and federal surface and ground water quality standards for this water.

It is important for the Forest Service to carefully consider the potential health concerns regarding using reclaimed water for snowmaking. That is why the role played by state and federal water regulating agencies is vital. The public health issues relevant to using reclaimed water are regulated by the EPA and ADEQ, and these agencies have approved reclaimed water for the direct application in snowmaking.

The Rio de Flag Water Reclamation Facility currently provides reclaimed water for turf irrigation in many places in and around Flagstaff, including on the Flagstaff Unified School District school grounds and at City parks. Reclaimed water from the Wildcat Hill wastewater treatment plant (not class A) is used for irrigation at golf courses and for dust control at various locations in east Flagstaff. In other words, reclaimed water is already being widely used in the Flagstaff community.

Are there health hazard associated with snow made from reclaimed water?
Snow made from treated wastewater has been certified and approved for this use by the EPA and the ADEQ. Therefore, in the opinion of those agencies, the use of reclaimed water for snowmaking is not a health risk. Also, this same reclaimed water has been used to irrigate grass and landscaping at City parks and school grounds for a number of years.

Cultural/Native American

What direction does the Coconino NF follow when it comes to Native American involvement?
The Coconino National Forest complies with and follows laws, regulations and policies that direct us through this process. These authorities include the National Historic Preservation Act, National Environmental Policy Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and Presidential Executive Order 130007. The Forest Service is legally mandated to consult with Tribes on federal actions and to specifically consider the effects of our actions upon traditional cultural and religious practices. Further, we have established a long track record in consulting with tribes on any number of issues and proposals related to the Peaks and other values they hold in association with the Coconino NF.

How does the Forest Service reach out to tribes?
Forest Service managers, archaeologists and other employees have used a variety of means, including open houses, media contacts, and attending reservation events, to reach out to general tribal populations. All this has been done in addition to our normal government-to-government relationship with tribes. The government-to-government approach has included hundreds of meetings, phone calls, and letters—all directed towards consultation.

Economics

Who is responsible for financing the upgrades at the Snowbowl?
It is the responsibility of the Arizona Snowbowl. All the costs associated with the development, construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed infrastructure upgrades at the Snowbowl will be the full responsibility of the Snowbowl.

How much economic benefit will Flagstaff see from snowmaking?
This proposal will have a positive net effect on Flagstaff’s winter economy. These economic benefits will be reflected in increased revenues from property, sales, and BBB taxes, and in higher local employment.

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