Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Monday, September 22, 2003

Wednesday, September 22, 2003 at 12:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order at 12:03 p.m.

City Council: Councilors Amarotico and Morrison were present.
Councilors Laws and Hearn were absent.
Councilor Hartzell arrived at 12:13 p.m.
Councilor Jackson arrived at 12:15 p.m.
Staff: Paula Brown Public Works Director, Lee Tuneberg Finance Director, Paul Nolte City Attorney and Gino Grimaldi City Administrator.

I. Draft Environmental Impact Statement - Mt Ashland.

City Administrator Gino Grimaldi briefly explained that Staff had been directed to analyze four areas of the DEIS: Water Quality, Water Quantity, Fire Risk, and Financial Risk. Staff has reviewed these areas and came up with 19 comments and recommendations they are expecting to be submitted to the Forest Service. Staff is requesting the Council's feedback regarding these comments, including modifying, deleting, or adding new comments that will be submitted.

Water Quality and Quantity

Description of Impacts, presented by Pete Jones, Dave Steinfeld, Debbie Whitall, and Steve Johnson Forest Service Representatives

Presented a model of annual sediment delivery for the entire project area. Noted there is a fair amount of material that comes out of this area on it's own. They predict that alternatives 4 and 5 will have the least impact, alternatives 2 and 3 will have the highest impact (at approx. 2.5 cubic yards per year), and alternative 6 lies somewhere in the middle. They stated that maintaining good soil cover is an important measure to take, and have found leaving timber on the ground works for retention and cover, and return of organic materials. Stated the largest area disturbance is the construction of ski runs, and expects to see very little bare soil in the ski runs when they are done. One of the assumptions they have is having a good buffer that will capture sediment within 100 to 300 ft in distance.

Councilor Hartzell asked what happens to displaced sediment over time? It was explained that it keeps depositing on top of itself, and that vegetation should start to grow on top and start securing it.

Comments/Recommendation, presented by Paula Brown, Public Works Director

Paula Brown stated when looking at water quality and quantity the biggest impact, although very minimal, is sedimentation. Sedimentation is defined as the erosion of soil material into creeks. Brown stated the two impacts that need to be minimized are vegetation removal and the erosion of specific soil types. She stated that when looking at the amount of sediment loading that will occur, it is absolutely minimal. She also stated she was concerned with construction Best Management Practices (BMP's), indicating work should not be started until these are in place. She noted some BMP's are: erosion control and storm-water management, over-snow work, and minimized work in mapped wetlands.

Brown's recommendations include:
1) Hiring a QA/QC Team
a) Community committee would select team.
b) Team would be hired as part of the construction design completion.
c) Team would develop control strategies, mitigation efforts, construction BMP's, and minimize wetlands impacts.
d) Team would monitor construction activities, restoration and remediation, and post-construction practices

2) Monitor Ashland Creek at the 2060 Road
a) Ensure that mediation measures have worked

City Council Discussion

Councilor John Morrison stated there where large increases in sedimentation when the ski area was first constructed (noting that logging was going on as well), and asked how this project differed. Brown clarified that the Forest Service has added in mitigation efforts on this project.

Councilor Hartzell asked how they planned to build structures on top of the snow without disrupting what's down below. Pete Jones stated this area could be considered the Achilles Heal of the system, claiming it is where the sediment potential is greatest because there is water and activities at the same site. Jones stated they have done research and found that over-snow logging is one of the most effective ways to minimize soil surface disturbance or any other low growing vegetation. He stated that a minimum of 2 feet of snow is sufficient to protect the surface and vegetation. He also clarified that the original plans proposed an excavation of the bridge, but they are now planning a clearing with no grating at the site, and the footing plan has changed as well.

Councilor Hartzell asked if the mitigation measures have been figured into the budget. Paula Brown stated that the QA/QC Team has not been added in, nor can they predict what changes or additional measures this team will request. It was clarified however, that mitigation has been included in all of the DEIS alternatives, and the BMP's have been figured in to the costs.

Steve Johnson stated that all restoration projects and mitigation required were factored into the economic analysis. He also stated that construction techniques have changed compared to the work that was done in the 1970's. He stated they do not have a percent of area that is chosen each year for re-vegetation, rather they look at specific areas that have a higher need, and are trying to get back to a natural state. He commented on the difficulty in certain areas, but efforts have been successful, with a 70%-80% success rate.

Paula Brown stated that she had recommended blasting be done at a minimum because she wanted to see if there where any other alternatives first. She did state, however, that blasting that may be done can be controlled, and that it may be the only way, in some cases, to remove the boulders.

Steve Johnson noted that blasting has been done every summer as part of the annual run maintenance and has been a long-standing practice. He noted that effects to the locations and the soil can be carefully controlled. Brown clarified that her caution for blasting was the very least of her concerns.

Councilor Morrison asked what would be the timing for re-vegetation efforts. Brown stated this was something the QA/QC Team should look at. She clarified that re-vegetation should be addressed after the decision has been made and during the design efforts, prior to construction.

Debbie Whitall mentioned Chapter 2 - Page 99, as a place where she sees room for the QA/QC recommendations to be implemented.

Councilor Morrison questioned why alternative 3 seemed to have equally high erosion potential to alternatives 2 & 6, even though it is significantly reduced in size. Steve Johnson clarified that gaining access over to the lift would take a great deal of re-contouring and re-grating, and would cost them 3-4 branches of the East Fork of Ashland Creek.

Paula Brown stated she strongly supports the City's involvement in the final construction activities.

Councilor Jackson asked about the long-term impact of removing trees, especially in regards to fire risk and long-term health. It was clarified the same erosion rates were assumed for each of the developments, but once you cut down the trees it is no longer a forest in that area. The Forest Service Representatives stated it will most likely look like the present area, example Lower Tempest. It was also clarified that there will be change and there will be some edge effect, but they do not believe that effect will be large.

Councilor Jackson noted that alternative 6 minimizes the areas disturbed verses alternative 2.

Councilor Hartzell asked what impact the clear cut would have on the snow pack, and how rapidly that snow would melt. Debbie Whitall stated that the clear cut will shift the amount of snow retained on the mountain, however given the watersheds size it will be very minimal. Paula Brown stated the percentage change and impact would only be 1/2 a percent or less.

Councilor Hartzell asked how much authority the proposed QA/QC Team would have. Paula Brown explained in her vision this team would report directly to the City and the Forest Service, and the City and the Forest Service would have the authority to go to the Mt. Ashland Association and request action.

Financial Risk

Reclamation Requirements & Lease Provisions Related to Restoration, presented by Paul Nolte, City Attorney

City Attorney Paul Nolte explained he had concentrated on the City's legal responsibility for reclamation, in the event the Ski Area is shut down. He explained the City is responsible for reclamation because they are the holder of the permit, however that responsibility has been shifted to the Mt. Ashland Association. This does not mean that there is no recourse against the City, as the Forest Service would ultimately look to the City for the reclamation costs because the City is legally obligated to the Forest Service under the permit. Nolte stated they had looked at the needs assessment from 1992, and areas in Colorado that have recently gone through this reclamation process, and stated it would be the City's responsibility to remove structures and restore the area back to it's natural state through re-vegetation. However, through the lease the City has transferred responsibility, and would look towards the Mt. Ashland Association to carry out these tasks.

Financial Risk, presented by Lee Tuneberg, Finance Director

Finance Director Lee Tuneberg explained he had focused on the lease agreement. In 1992 this agreement identified the costs for reclamation at $200,000.00, and with the escalation clause applied, it would raise that amount to $267,000.00. However, it is undeterminable what exactly would need to be done and the associated costs. The lease identifies the liquidation value of assets, which appears to be valued at enough to be sold and pay for the reclamation costs as estimated. Lee Tuneberg stated his recommendations as:

• Require USFS to provide an updated estimate of cost and basis for the estimate for the ski area as it stands today
• Revise the lease agreement for the updated estimate of reclamation costs
• Restrict the use of any assets deemed City property from becoming security for any loans or operations without written consent from the City, and an         independent asset inventory valuation for minimum liquidation value to assure reclamation coverage.

City Council Discussion

Councilor Morrison asked if the Mt. Ashland Association completed a fund drive, who would own those assets. Tuneberg clarified that according to the current lease, the assets would belong primarily to the City, with the exception that some assets were not part of the original agreement.

City Attorney Paul Nolte stated that any replacement of current equipment or fixtures would become property of the City, and if new equipment is purchased the title remains with the lessee. If the lessee ceases to operate all of it's assets come to the City, but title during that interim period of new equipment is in Mt. Ashland Association's name.

Councilor Jackson expressed her concern of valuing the assets, and questioned whether selling the lifts and other equipment would provide enough funds to cover the reclamation. Lee Tuneberg clarified that there has been no independent appraisal of the assets for market value, and it is one of his recommendations that this be done.

Councilor Hartzell asked if there was a fee that the City pays to the Forest Service for the special permit use. Lee Tuneberg clarified that there is an amount that is paid to the Forest Service each year, but several years ago the Council transferred that fee, so that Ski Ashland now makes the payment.

Councilor Hartzell asked for clarification on when the City obtains ownership of new equipment. Paul Nolte clarified that if it is replaced equipment in the current area the City has ownership, and if it is new equipment the Lessee has ownership. However there is no provision of this in the lease for the expansion area, and Nolte is recommending that this language be added.

Councilor Hartzell asked if someone needed to be bonded to do logging work with the Forest Service, and if there was an equivalent bonding for ski resorts. Steve Johnson stated loggers are required to be bonded. He continued, for this project there are insurance requirements, but he did not believe there are any bonding requirements for tree removal, since it is done under a special use permit.

Paul Nolte stated that bonding is something that could be done, but the thought at the time was, instead of them spending money on a premium, the City would ensure that all of their costs and liability would be covered through sufficient assets.

Steve Johnson stated that mountain bike damage in the ski area has decreased significantly, and does not anticipate mountain bike usage being a problem in the expanded ski area.

Councilor Jackson asked about the summer uses discussed in the DEIS, and wanted to know if the Forest Service would grant permission, under any circumstances, for mountain biking events. Steve Johnson clarified that they are not considering that at all right now, but can't say in certainty that they would never allow it in the future.

Councilor Morrison received clarification that the current permit had been extended to 2017, and asked what the process for extending it further would be. Steve Johnson stated a new application would have to be filed, but if it is the same owner or operator it is a fairly simple process.

Councilor Hartzell asked for clarification from Paul Nolte on page 6 of his report, Section 2.4.2, asking him to explain what the City's exposure is. Nolte stated the exposure is if the lessee folds, otherwise the lessee has been assigned all rights and responsibilities. Further clarifying, the City is ultimately responsible if the lessee folds, because the City is the holder of the Forest Service permit.

Councilor Hartzell asked if the City could be held responsible if someone was injured on the slopes. Nolte stated we are completely protected against this, and pointed out the City requires Mt. Ashland to have insurance that gives the City indemnity. Hartzell also asked if the City does inspections or gets reports that ensure Mt. Ashland Association is providing adequate maintenance on their equipment and facilities. Nolte clarified that the Forest Service has accepted MAA as the operator, and if anything was going astray he is sure the City would have been informed.

Steve Johnson clarified that one of the Forest Services' main jobs is to ensure that the ski area is following ENS Codes, and among other measures, performs a mandatory yearly insurance inspection.

Nolte clarified for the Council that the arrangement with MAA is the same as the agreement with OSF, explaining all responsibility is on the lessee.

Councilor Jackson mentioned Section 2.4.1 of Nolte's report, which stated "MAA has the right to make changes and improvements to the leased property without seeking consent of the city." Jackson stated she felt that this area was first our watershed, and second a ski area, and believes the City should be concerned when any activity takes place in the watershed.

Paul Nolte stated that in the present lease this statement is correct, however this does not mean that the City does not play a role in what happens in the watershed, and noted the 1996 Memorandum of Understanding for further clarification.

Fire Risk

City Administrator, Gino Grimaldi summarized the report provided by Fire Chief Keith Woodley
• There is no historic evidence that the creation of the ski runs pose any specific wildfire risk to the watershed
• There is no correlation between the increase of occupants and an increased risk of fire
• Suggests the new construction of buildings should take into consideration the need for fire protection to prevent the potential for building fires spreading into the watershed.

City Council Discussion

Councilor Hartzell expressed that she believes that more people will be visiting and utilizing this area after the work has been completed, and was concerned about fire potential during the summer months.

Mayor DeBoer noted that the snow fences being used retain the snow very well. He stated that in the original creation of Mt. Ashland Association, the City became the place to store funds because MAA was a new organization and the City had some standing. The City also had the ability to collect and store money, and meet the concerns of donors. But now that MAA has run the ski area for a considerable number of years, he questioned transferring the permit to Ski Ashland and pulling the City out completely.

Paula Brown stated the storm water management plan and the erosion control measures, should look at all available BMP's. She stated the QA/QC Team could present a plan that would have higher expectations than a DEQ review. She also recommended avoiding work in the wetlands under all possible circumstances, but noted there will be a construction element with the bridge. She stated she envisioned the QA/QC providing the best construction recommendations that will provide absolute minimal damage or impact to the mapped wetland areas.

Other Business

Mayor and Councilor Laws will not be able to attend the Public Meeting on September 30th.

Meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder

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