The Flagstaff City Council has decided to move forward with plans to sell reclaimed water to the Arizona Snowbowl. The council decided against selling drinking water to the ski resort, a move that would have facilitated plans for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks, by expediting construction of a pipeline.
Snowmaking at Snowbowl has been challenged in court in a lawsuit which made it to the U.S. Supreme Court; that body denied the tribes' appeal, giving the green light to snowmaking. Another lawsuit is pending, addressing the safety of snow made with reclaimed water on people who might consume it.
Several native American tribes consider the peaks sacred and the groups continue to oppose snowmaking.
Arizona Snowbowl leases land from the U.S. Forest Service, falling under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA has been negotiating with both sides in the ongoing snowmaking disagreement. That federal body had suggested using drinking water to make snow, which could have ended some arguments regarding the use of treated wastewater on the peaks. Some tribal representatives have since said they oppose all efforts of snowmaking, whether it involves fresh water or reclaimed water.
The Flagstaff City Council voted 5-to-2 today against selling drinking water, upholding the original snowmaking contract selling reclaimed water to Arizona Snowbowl.
The council spent more than 5 hours hearing testimony Monday night. Instead of making a late night/early morning vote, the postponed the decision until this morning.
Many in the business community say plans to expand Snowbowl, including building a pipeline from Flagstaff up the mountain, will create dozens of jobs. Tourism officials say snowmaking will boost the local economy by creating a more dependable ski and snowplay season. Today's decision makes the timeline for the expansion uncertain.