Stowe wants delay in meeting snowmaking requirements

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(Host) In the 1990s, ski resorts and state environmental officials often clashed over the impact of snowmaking on high elevation streams.

Those issues have mostly been resolved. But now the Stowe Mountain Resort wants a delay in meeting some state requirements.

And even the environmental groups involved say the delays are not all Stowe’s fault.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Resorts take water from streams to power their snow guns. But the reduced flows can harm aquatic life.

The environmental issues were mostly settled with a new state policy that generally requires ski areas to maintain stream levels at the "February median flow." That’s a water level that biologists say will protect fish.

In the case of the Stowe Mountain Resort, a huge real estate project was supposed to provide the needed money to fund snowmaking improvements.

Stowe has built one snowmaking pond that allows it to store water and rely less on the river. But it’s run into delays with a second pond.

That means the resort may not be able to meet an Act 250 requirement to fully restore flows next year to the West Branch of the Little River.

Rob Apple is the resort’s planning director. He says the resort had hoped to get a permit to build the pond sooner.

(Apple) We anticipate that state permit to be issued sometime in 2008. And two years after that, the resort will be in a position to increase its minimum stream flow to the final maximum level that was agreed to by all the parties…

(Dillon) The issue is now before the local Act 250 commission, which wrote the original permit that requires the higher flows by the next ski season.

Stowe has been negotiating with the state Agency of Natural Resources. And the state has agreed to give the resort another year to meet the requirement for February Median Flow, or FMF.

Elizabeth Lord is an agency lawyer.

(Lord) So given the interlocking pieces and ambiguities in these documents, we’d like to see a date certain for meeting FMF, and that would be by the season of 2010 and 2011.

(Dillon) The Conservation Law Foundation has been involved in the Stowe project for years.

Vermont director Chris Kilian says the organization supports the Act 250 permit, which sets next year’s deadline for meeting the flow levels.

But Kilian says the delays with the second snowmaking pond are not all Stowe’s fault, so he’s willing to extend the deadline somewhat.

(Kilian) And while we’re happy to work with the resort on reasonable time frames, there should be an outset date set. Stowe now has major water storage capacity in the pond they built. And it’s time for this river to be brought back to where it’s protected.

(Dillon) Rob Apple, the resort’s planning director, says under most circumstances the ski area can meet the February flow requirement. He says the resort faces a risk, however, when stream flows are low – and the demand for artificial snow is high.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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