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Ashland watershed is not held hostage

In response to Jay Liniger's comments from July 1 in which he indicates that the Mt. Ashland Association is attempting to hold hostage the watershed "in order to argue that the expansion will improve water quality," Mount Ashland is not attempting to hold the watershed hostage.

The city of Ashland and the Environmental Protection Agency have been satisfied by the studies and the plans for mitigation measures at the ski area. The following excerpts are from the Final Environmental Impact Statement, released in 2004:

"After the 1974 flood, it was found that 94 percent of the landslides that had occurred, originated in the transient snow zone below the 5,000-foot elevation. ... This zone is well below the existing ski area.

Similar results were observed within the Ashland Watershed following the 1997 flood.''

"Landslide related debris is the leading source of sediment to Ashland Creek and Reeder Reservoir. The majority of this material migrates down slope during major storm events.'"

"The existing ski area, operated since its construction in 1963, has not resulted in accelerated landslide activity within the SUP area.''

And finally, let me provide some dates and actions from the court records on this long, drawn-out legal process.

  • Fall 2004: The expansion was approved by the Forest Service and soon after the Sierra Club and others filed an administrative appeal and thereafter a lawsuit against the project. Work was started by Mount Ashland staff on 23 watershed restoration components included in the project.
  • Spring 2007: The Sierra Club, after losing its initial legal challenges in the federal district court, appealed the district court decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and an injunction pending appeal was issued against the entire project, including the restoration components.
  • December 26, 2007: To implement direction from the 9th Circuit Court, the federal district court issued an order continuing the injunction until the Forest Service corrected the problems in their environmental impact statement analysis regarding the project determined by the 9th Circuit Court in its appeal decision.
  • Currently: Since that time the Mt. Ashland Association has remained prohibited from working on restoration as well as other components of the expansion project. However, the Forest Service just recently completed its supplemental EIS to address the issues that the 9th Circuit Court decision identified, and issued an updated Record of Decision approving the project.

I find this very interesting that Mr. Liniger has apparently neglected to mention this lawsuit, brought on by organizations that he has been associated and worked with during the litigation.

It is because the injunction kept us from working on the watershed restoration projects, located both within and outside our permit area, that we chose instead to design and construct a nature trail on Mount Ashland. The trail allows people in our region to come to the Siskiyou crest and enjoy the stunning views while learning about the flora and fauna on Mount Ashland.

The kids in our Youth Summer Services program built the trail and in the process gained an important sense of pride and ownership in the project. The Mount Ashland Nature Trail Project won the Gene Leo Memorial award at the Oregon Governor's Tourism Conference in 2008.

It is time to move on and let the science behind this project help improve the watershed and provide a better balanced recreational experience for the region.

Kim Clark is general manager of the Mount Ashland ski area.