August 16, 1995 in Idaho

Erosion Blamed On Expansion Schweitzer Shoring Up As Rains Muddy Waters

By The Spokesman-Review
 

FOR THE RECORD: Idaho Edition; Saturday, August 19, 1995 CORRECTION: In 1991, Schweitzer Mountain ski area was fined $500, and required to pay Bonner County $3,000, for failing to control erosion during construction. A story Wednesday stated otherwise.

Dirt muddying Schweitzer and Sand creeks is coming mostly from construction at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, environmental officials said Monday.

The resort has been building condominiums, expanding a parking lot and revamping one of its ski slopes. The work has caused erosion and prompted complaints from residents who live near the two creeks and still pump drinking water from them.

“We’ve received quite a few complaints about the creeks being real muddy. When it storms there is a slug of sediment coming down,” said June Berquist, a water quality officer from the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality.

“We are concerned because they have so much land opened up and if it’s not fixed the problem could get worse this fall.”

Environmental officials toured the resort last week along with Bonner County planners. Berquist has since asked Schweitzer to voluntarily fix the erosion problems or face enforcement action.

“Without immediate and extensive work on erosion control it is likely that many of your projects’ sites may heavily erode into Schweitzer Creek this fall,” Berquist wrote to the resort. “After the erosion problems in 1991, DEQ is disappointed that these problems are again occurring.”

The resort was under fire in 1991 for sediment washing off ski slopes that were under construction. The resort fixed problems and was not fined.

This time, Berquist recommended the resort hire an erosion control specialist.

Wayne Benner, a planner for the resort, said an engineer was hired at the start of the project and there has been ongoing erosion control.

“But anytime you have bare ground on a mountainside you are going to have some erosion,” he said.

The resort built sediment ponds and covered most of the three to five acres of exposed dirt with hay bales to stop it from washing into the creek, he said.

“I don’t think they saw a lot of the controls we have in place and we are more than willing to have them come back up and take a look and keep an eye on us.”

More work has been done since environmental officials visited the site, Benner said, adding that Schweitzer will cooperate with any DEQ recommendations.

County officials also plan to review stormwater runoff plans for Schweitzer. Resort officials said they submitted the plans before beginning construction, but the county has been unable to find them.

Associate planner for the resort Claire Marley said some of the erosion is also coming from private projects and homes under construction on the mountain. Plans for those work sites are also now under review.

“We just want to make sure there aren’t bigger problems when the fall rains come,” Marley said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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