4. RESORT CLAIM: "The important, physical difference is that irrigation water is wholly lost to area streams"
RESPONSE: This statement is false. It is commonly known that a large portion of water applied to property to irrigate for hay/alfalfa or for other purposes, seeps into the shallow aquifer and returns to the stream in the later summer, also known as "return flows." Other water right holders may be adversely impacted if such flows are stopped and the aquatic life will suffer. Thus, irrigation water is not wholly lost to area streams, but can help maintain flows in the later summer. By eliminating these return flows, it is likely that adverse impacts will occur and any change should be objected to on those grounds.
Also, there is no information that snowmaking will address the need for late summer flows in the affected creeks, and is likely this will not occur due to the hydrogeology of the area.
5. RESORT CLAIM: "We think that water stored as snowpack will runoff in the spring and summer, enhancing stream flow, feeding the aquifer, and improving fisheries"
RESPONSE: Again, there is no information that snowmaking will address the need for late summer flows in the affected creeks, and is likely this will not occur due to the hydrogeology of the area. Thus, Maclay needs a detailed study analyzing the impacts of the proposed development on surface and ground water, otherwise, the assumption is that snowpack will not increase later summer flows. Rather, due to the reduction of return flows and discussed in the previous response, Maclay’s proposed change will likely have an adverse impact on other water right holders and the aquatic systems.
6. RESORT CLAIM: "The EA will fully explore and document environmental implications of water for snowmaking RESPONSE: An environmental analysis will not be sufficient. A full-blown environmental impact statement is needed to fully analyze the impacts. Further, Maclay must also provide scientifically credible information for how "snowmax" will impact local area farmers and ranchers, as well as the specific aquatic ecosystems that will be impacted."
7. RESORT CLAIM: "As soon as possible, hold work sessions with water conservation leaders"
Snowmax was launched in the United States in 1984. The active ingredient of Snomax is a protein contained in the cellular wall of the Pseudomonas Syringae bacterium, which enables the lowering of the freezing point of water - allowing ski resorts to make snow at warmer temperatures.
Though the Bitterroot Resort cites York International, the maker of Snowmax, to assure us of its complete safety, there is enough international concern to spur ongoing research addressing Snowmax's impacts on the environment. Even if Snowmax is safe for humans, its overall effects on water quality, soils, wildlife and vegetation is still uncertain. For example, in a 2003 study entitled Does artificial snow production affect soil and vegetation of ski pistes? A review, the authors found that:
"Increasingly, snow additives, made of potentially phytopathogenic bacteria, are used for snow production. They enhance ice crystal formation due to their ice nucleation activity. Although sterilised, additives affected the growth of some alpine plant species in laboratory experiments." (Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 1 May 2003, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 219-230(12))
In short, the news is not yet in about Snowmax's impacts on the environment. While this is in no means a cause for panic, it is an issue which must be honestly addressed.
Friends of Lolo Peak, P.O. Box 7444, Missoula, MT 59807
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