Snowbowl Presses on Amid Suits

by CYNDY COLE, Sun Staff Reporter
Arizona Daily Sun 
22 November 2011

Those opposed to snowmaking with reclaimed wastewater at Arizona Snowbowl are headed to court again soon -- locally and federally -- but a Snowbowl owner said the ski area will keep building to prepare for snowmaking next winter, under the presumption the business will prevail legally.

"Nobody's worried about it. We're moving forward," said Eric Borowsky, a Snowbowl owner.

He said crews plan to start assembling pipeline at the ski area perhaps in March, over the snow, to complete the $15 million snowmaking infrastructure for use next winter.

There is no injunction or other legal measure barring construction pending the outcome of two more lawsuits.

HOPI TRIBE SUES FLAGSTAFF Coconino County Superior Court Judge Joe Lodge is slated to hear the Hopi Tribe's latest arguments against snowmaking at 3:30 p.m. Monday, with the tribe suing the city of Flagstaff.

Attorneys for the Hopi Tribe have argued that snowmaking is contrary to public policy, infringes upon the tribe's water rights, and could harm public health and the environment.

They also raise a new technicality not brought before a court to date: State law says those cities or other entities selling reclaimed water must "reasonably preclude human contact with reclaimed water," they wrote in legal documents.

Phoenix attorneys working on behalf of the city of Flagstaff have asked Lodge to toss out the case in a strongly worded statement.

They said the Hopi Tribe waited too long to bring its case, lacked the legal standing to challenge a contract between a city and a business, and that the tribe couldn't win on any of the points.

"At some point, litigation must come to an end. Plaintiff's decade-long quest to stop snowmaking at Snowbowl is past that point. Despite losing all of its legal challenges to the alleged adverse effects of the city's contract to deliver reclaimed water to Snowbowl, Plaintiff refuses to admit defeat," the attorneys working on behalf of the city of Flagstaff wrote.

HEALTH RISKS ON APPEAL The Save the Peaks Coalition and nine individuals are headed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for oral arguments on Jan. 9, 2012. That's when they will assert that the U.S. Forest Service did not adequately weigh risks to human health in approving reclaimed wastewater for use in making snow.

A previous claim that using reclaimed wastewater to make snow violated tribal religious freedom was denied by the full 9th Circuit and turned down for review by the U.S. Supreme court.

A federal judge in Arizona struck down the newer lawsuit from Save the Peaks in December 2010. She said the plaintiffs had waited too long to bring it and that the Forest Service had adequately investigated the safety of using reclaimed water to make snow.

Plaintiffs in the case against the U.S. Forest Service are The Save the Peaks Coalition, Kristin Huisinga, Clayson Benally, Sylvan Grey, Don Fanning, Jeneda Benally, Frederica Hall, Berta Benally, Rachel Tso and Lisa Tso.

Plaintiffs' attorney, Howard Shanker, has recently written some Navajo lawmakers urging them not to support snowmaking with groundwater as a source, either, saying it would undermine this case.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.