MINUTES FOR THE PUBLIC INPUT/SPECIAL MEETING
US FOREST SERVICE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (DEIS)
MT ASHLAND EXPANSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
September 30, 2003 - 7:00 p.m.
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Council Chair John Morrison called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
City Council: Councilor Amarotico, Hartzell, and Jackson. Mayor DeBoer and Councilor Laws were absent.
Staff: Paula Brown Public Works Director, Keith Woodley Fire Chief, Mike Bianca Police Lieutenant and Gino Grimaldi City Administrator.
Dr. Aaron Corbet/148 4th Street/Spoke in opposition of the expansion and how he felt that this was about nothing more than money. Commented on the soil content in the expansion area and the possibility of erosion within our watershed. Noted Representative Lenn Hannon's voting record in regards to environmental issues. He does not trust the Forest Service and asks that the council consider the source. He favored the suggestion by Eric Navickas of Alternative 5.
Katy Bazylewic/1257 Siskiyou/Spoke on behalf of Southern Oregon University to say that Mt. Ashland ski area is an important recruitment tool. She stated that Mt. Ashland is a feature in their promotional materials and is listed as one of the top 10 reasons to attend SOU. She stated that two senior SOU students had studied the Mt. Ashland area for their capstone project part of which involved surveying students on their perception on the Mt. Ashland ski area. The principal question was to do determine "If Mt. Ashland was an influencing factor in their decision making process to enroll." The result of the survey indicated that 1/3 of the students stated that they were influenced by Mt. Ashland.
Skip Knight/1060 Aspen St, Medford/Representative of Medford City Council. Read aloud a Resolution in favor of the expansion of Mt. Ashland.
Eric Navickas/711 Faith Street/Felt that it was inappropriate that the City of Medford supports an expansion into our municipal watershed. He stated that the first thing the city needs to address is the current conditions on the current development. He asked that the city request a separate NEPA analysis to determine how to clean up current conditions. He presented a slide show that indicated serious erosion problems. He supports Alternative 5, which he felt would create a larger beginner area.
Tom Reid/918 Walker/Spoke in favor of expansion and Alternative 2. He stated his credentials and relationship with Mt. Ashland Ski Association. He shared the current financial status of Mt. Ashland Ski Association. He submitted a Statement of Financial Position as of June 30, 2003 and a summarization of the organization over the time of its existence. He also included a break-even analysis for the expansion that is proposed by Mt. Ashland Association for Alternative 2. He addressed the issue of assuring the city of adequate assets to cover theoretical closure by explaining the current and future value of the ski facility.
Joseph Flaherty/1423 E Main/Spoke in opposition of expansion and noted that he is an avid snowboarder. He commented on his concern regarding the building of a facility at the bottom of the bowl and felt that this is a major safety concern. He felt that there are problems with safety in regards to certain areas of the current ski facility. He does not believe the speculation on how many visitors the mountain will draw due to expansion and that there is no certainty. He felt that the mountain belongs to the community.
Andy Bayliss/201 Oaklawn/Commented on his familiarity with the terrain and how he had worked been working with the community alternative group to try and guide the NEPA process to help improve the area but not to go into the middle branch. He asked that the council look closely at what is being brought forward and noted that the Forest Service has been under a great deal of pressure to enlarge and promote Mt Ashland. He doesn't feel that there is anything being offered that the community as a whole could stand behind. He suggests improvements that do not enter the middle branch and not to expand the parking lot. He doesn't feel that it is the city's responsibility to fill up the hotels in the area. Requests that to take our environmental viewpoint as city, when considering this expansion.
Robert Matthews/309 E Jackson/Spoke in favor of the expansion. He shared his participation with the purchase of Mt. Ashland. He stated that one of the goals that they had when the ski area was purchased, was inclusion and participation by all residents of the city. He stated that environmentalist have been involved in the process from the beginning and have greatly improved the plan for expansion. Shared pictures on the condition of the dam and explained that this dam had been put in years ago and had been neglected I past. Stated that Mt Ashland is actively involved and spending money on mitigation matters. He noted that Mt Ashland has paid for erosion control mitigation. In regards to stream flow, he commented that the water that would go under the bridge is 2% of the water that would flow into Reeder Reservoir. He also commented on the notion that the city has a "sole" source of water is arguable given that the city is currently seeking other sources of water and does not believe that the city depends solely on Reeder Reservoir for our water needs.
Rivers Brown/1067 Ashland St/Noted concern regarding erosion and sedimentation into Reeder Reservoir and the future problems associated with this. He felt that what we need is clean fresh water and we are betting against global warming.
Sue Kupillas/10 S Oakdale/Spoke on behalf of Jackson County Commissioners and read aloud a Resolution in favor of the expansion. She shared her experience as a skier on Mt Ashland and the difficulty level of the facility. The resolution noted the economic value of Mt. Ashland to the Rogue Valley. She noted her satisfaction that Mt. Ashland Association has properly addressed the environmental issues.
Nick Joslin/327 Morton/Stated that he is a geologist for a company that has consulted for the city on a number of projects. He spoke in opposition to the expansion as he feels that there has not been adequate control of erosion problems. He voiced his concern with the possibility of damaging our water supply.
Chris Fowler/966 Tyler Creek/Spoke in favor of improvements at Mt. Ashland that would better accommodate a wider variety of users. He does not support Alternative 2 or Alternative 6. He also does not support moving into the middle branch area as this too much of a pristine area to disturb. He is not willing to take the risk of mitigation in this area. He felt that there are better ways to improve beginner/intermediate terrain and access issues.
Shawn Kampmann/1520 Pinecrest/He noted the increase use at Mt Ashland and the crowding that is occurring. He noted his support of Alternative 2 rather than Alternative 6, which would not be aesthetically pleasing. He shared his awareness of the area through mapping and has worked with experienced geologists and environmentalists. He provided copies of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and pointed out the education and experience of contributors involved in the process. He does not see erosion as a problem and asked that the council listen to the experts.
Scott Harding/2025 Tolman Creek/Noted his background in geology. Spoke regarding erosion and sediment delivery and the guesswork approach of the DEIS. He explained how sediment delivery is determined and how we have no reliable on-site data from Mt Ashland ski area. He explained that the DEIS was using data from Idaho and extrapolating those numbers to Mt. Ashland. He felt that by extrapolating Idaho's data to Mt. Ashland without on-site data for verification was a problem. He noted that a computer model called Disturbed WEPP was used and that WEPP does not account for variations in soil type, realistic topography, complexities of vegetation across a site or roads or other compacted soils. He stated that the bottom line on erosion rates is that there is no consistent data obtained on-site through direct measurement. Erosion rate data is highly uncertain and represents a best guess methodology.
Matt Flotho/1257 Siskiyou/Requests staying out of the middle branch and that there are many things that could be done to improve the area without going into the middle branch. Commented on the need to improve the lodge, skier services and improvement of shuttle service. Suggests charging use for parking area. Need management that focuses on skier services before moving forward on the expansion.
Jim Teece/864 Neil Creek/Spoke for Ashland Chamber of Commerce and endorses and supports the expansion of Mt. Ashland noting the economic value.
Melina Marvin/361 Idaho/She noted the relationship that the council has with the US Forest Service and noted that she had wrote a thesis on detailing the environmental history on Ashland Creek Watershed. While researching her thesis she found a 1929 document that states the City has something to say in what happens to the watershed due to involvement by individuals at that time. Requests that the council pass on the comments made at this public hearing to the US Forest Service. Questioned the need to expand Mt Ashland for economic reasons.
Jay Liniger/1253 Tolman Creek/He felt that the decision made would symbolize the value of our community. He noted the uncertainties and his concern with harming the ecosystem, water supply and erosion control. He noted the risks that are being taken and how this has been monitored in similar expansions. He stated that the burden of proof rests with the proponents and that "zero" harm will affect the watershed and that mitigation has to be 100% effective. He commented that the middle branch is special and under appreciated in relation to our watershed. Requested that council support and alternative that does not move into the middle branch.
Muriel Ames/195 Grandview/Spoke in favor of the expansion and noted the value of Mt Ashland. She noted the programs used by the students and adults in our community. She also noted the lack of progression slopes offered for skiers. Supports Alternative 2.
George Badura/2840 David Lane, Medford/Stated that his evaluation is geared toward the municipal watershed and shared that he is very familiar with this area. His evaluation of the East Ford of Ashland Creek is that it is a creek channel from the Ski area down that is in a degraded condition. This was caused by the effects of added runoff from disturbed conditions such as roads, etc. causing the creek channel to carry the added runoff. The results are common sediment deposits and bank cutting. He felt that there was nothing that could be done for this condition now other than to not add to the effects. He explained that the East Fork proper is different terrain than the Middle Fork. That the soils from the Middle Fork are very deep deposits from mountain glaciation and are very permeable. He explained that the Middle Fork is in Dynamic equilibrium because it has not and is not currently affected by management activities or cumulative effects. The concern for the Middle Fork drainage is the effect management activities may have on wetlands and ground water, especially in the upland appearing Englemann Spruce stands. If subsurface water is intercepted, this can adversely effect the municipal watershed character. In review of the DEIS, he finds that the costs for mitigation and restoration have been grossly underestimated.
Jeff Hanson/13880 Greensprings Hwy/Commented favorably on the City's recommended provisions and offered the Associations willingness to work with the city to meet any concerns.
Ken Crocker/134 Nutley/Commented that he is an avid skier but is opposed to the expansion due to a value statement. He felt that the council's responsibility is to protect and not to take risks. He does not feel that recreation takes precedence over our watershed. He cited issues regarding the reality of the political environment and the pressure on the US Forest Service. The sensitive sediment projectory as used by a computer model. And that the burden of proof had not been met as it relates to the risk for our watershed. He stated that mitigation has shown to be ineffective and costly. Requests that the council propose a resolution to stay out of the middle branch and to follow the Valdez Principles.
Brian Almquist/128 Wimer/Spoke in strong support of Alternative 2. As City Administrator for the City of Ashland from 1970 until 1998 he shared his familiarity with the Ashland watershed and its interface with the Mt. Ashland ski area. He reminded the council that the previous owners had announced that if a buyer could not be found, it was their intention to close Mt. Ashland and to relocate the lifts to Stevens Pass. The loss to our region in regards to recreational and economic benefits were recognized and the community raised the $1.4 million that was needed to acquire the lease and facilities. He explained that a sub-lease was worked out with the newly created non-profit entity and that this sub-lease had built-in protections regarding the maintenance of a reserve fund and/or marketable assets, sufficient for restoration of the area if the enterprise were to fail. In addition, when the facility was acquired, the previous owners had spent over $200,000 on plans for future expansion, and the Forest Service had prepaid an EIS o the various alternatives. The city staff was an active participant in that planning process, and was successful in modifying the preferred alternative in several ways, to protect the watershed. He stated that now, over 10 years later, we are still discussing the same issues. That, following this new planning process, Alternative 2 has been crafted to meet all of the concerns raised and will have no significant impact on water quality in Reeder Reservoir. The monitoring proposed in this alternative both during and after construction, will insure that Ashland's water quality will not be adversely impacted. In closing, he stated the need to provide the terrain that will keep our ski area economically sound for years to come.
Tonya Graham/418 Lit Way/Executive for HeadWaters. Asked that the council keep the following in focus, maintaining the health of watershed as a top priority, being aware of soil fragility on the mountain and the risks involved due to impact. She asked that the council consider other alternatives that address needed improvements. Requested that the council consider a resolution that modifies Alternative 3, which stays out of the middle branch.
Gary MacGraw/423 Lit Way/Questioned why the city would not be interested in expanding the ski area when it has been proved that there would be no impact to our watershed. Noted that our community supports a livable environment. Does not believe that expansion is profit driven but to maintain its solvency and provide improved ski areas. Supports Alternative 2, which would bring the ski area into compliance. He does not support Alternative 6. Noted the economic value of the ski facility to our community.
Bryan Holley/234 Liberty/Spoke regarding what he feels are flaws in logic, one of which is the fiscal reality of the city's obligation in the future. He questioned who would be interested in purchasing a ski facility that is experiencing difficulties. He raised his concern relating to the fund raising that will take place for the expansion. Pointed out the issue regarding the concern that environmental issues will be used for political reasons. He raised the point that at the public meetings with the Forest Service that the option of "no expansion" was not given opportunity for discussion. He felt that the council has the political power to tell the Forest Service how they should participate in the Mt Ashland expansion.
Jimbo Jones/transient/Requested that better fuels and technologies be invested in. Stated that there is a need for middle ground that all could be comfortable with.
JoAnne Eggers/221 Granite Street/Requested that the council respect the value and beauty of the middle branch. She pointed out the average length and width of the longest ski run and how it would effect the middle branch area. Commented that global warming has not been given its due and is not just a theory. Advocated for staying out of the middle branch.
Joanie McGowan/951 Clay/Felt strong about making a decision and supported the expansion through the management of Mt. Ashland Association. Noted that she based her decisions on her trust of Mt Ashland Association and the experts that have been involved. Requested that we work together to improve the ski area and that the council be clear with their decision. Noted that there is a need to move on and work on other issues at hand.
David Allen/630 Ray Lane/Commented that most that speak in favor of the expansion noted the economic value of the mountain and that those that spoke in opposition commented on the environmental risks.
Tom Rose/430 Wiley/Commented that the Forest Service has stated that rain on snow events are the only serious threat to the watershed and Reeder Reservoir. He stated that the Forest Services had chosen to ignore the severe thunderstorms that occur on the mountain on a regular basis. He also noted that in the 1980's the Forest Service had redesigned the crossings over both the East and West Forks due to massive water in the re-flows at these two crossings. The purpose of the redesign was to make them impervious to future events like this. He shared that what happens on the North side can happen on the South side. Opposes moving into the middle branch. He supports the council seeking George Badura's and Richard Hart's expert opinion.
David Spear/3827 Annettes Way/Commented on his use of the ski facility and his involvement with the Mt. Ashland Association. He stated that improvement is needed, specifically in regards to safety. He supports Alternative 6. He commented that nothing we do, will provide zero impact, and that we should consider growth and the needs associated with growth.
George Sexton/1423 E Main/Commented on the role of the council as the protector of our environment. Spoke regarding the prior study session and how mitigation was being pushed rather than staying out of the middle branch. Read article regarding sediment trapping using wet model. Commented on how the US Forest Service had not been reliable in how they manage the forest service specifically in municipal watersheds. Voiced his concern regarding the US Forests Aquatic Conservation Strategy. He does not believe that the US Forest Service is an agency that supports water quality.
Monica Partridge 535 Sutten Place/Spoke for Medford Chamber of Commerce and voiced the support of Alternative 2. Feels that this would offer the best recreational and economic value. The expansion will increase tourism and economic vitality. Feels that the expansion is well planned with low impact to water quality.
Sean Gordon/100 Union Street/Supports keeping the mountain open and making the right decision. Expansion based on future growth is inappropriate and noted other improvements that could be done in place of expansion. Would like to be assured that erosion mitigation is taking place.
Valri Williams/744 Helman Street/Treasurer of the Ashland High School Ski Team. Noted the number of students participating in the ski club at Mt. Ashland. She commented that the available terrain is not adequate for racing and acknowledged the number of several students in attendance that supported the expansion.
Larry Cooper/223 5th St/Commented that student programs will continue regardless of the expansion. Requested that all seasons be considered in regards to the proposed expansion. Voiced his concern regarding the impact to the middle branch. Requested that the council include in their statement to the DEIS the community values in regards to the proposed expansion area.
Zach Stevenson/391 Beach Street/Voiced his concern that there is no middle ground in regards to making a decision on the expansion. He stated the importance of protecting our natural resources for the future. Stated that he had cataloged the process involving the expansion of Mt. Ashland. Commented on the impact of the endangered species. He implores the council to find a better way.
Greg Williams/744 Helman/Commented that the Forest Service has done an excellent job with the DEIS and supported the efforts of the council. Would like to see the Forest Service consider a long gentle slope for the benefit of the ski racers.
Paul Copeland/462 Jennifer/Commented on his use and support for the ski facility. He does not support moving into the middle branch. He commented that the middle branch is an incredible pristine area and it is unbelievable to him that disturbing this area is being considered. He feels that there will be years of lawsuits if the expansion is approved. He feels that the Mt. Ashland Board is responsible for this becoming an ongoing battle and noted the amount of money that has been spent on this proposed expansion. He stated that the Mt. Ashland Board should resign and that a new Board should start over.
Corky Gardner/4575 Hwy 66/Stated that as a student of Southern Oregon University she was not drawn to the community due to the benefits of Mt. Ashland. She does not support old growth cuts and opposes the expansion.
Suzi Aufderheide/321 N Mountain/Commented on the spirituality of the mountain and how air and water sustains us.
Michael Goldman/198 Aleda/Stated that he come as a supporter of the expansion but after alter egos, global warning and various other fears commented that we should just close down the mountain and close down the streets because everything is going to be "so awful." He stated that Mt. Ashland has done a great job of being stewards of the land and that this is a very empowering recreational facility. That recreation is an important part of our lifestyle and our life. He stated, that given the testimony that evening opposing the expansion, that we should all just live in fear. He explained that only 5% of the expansion are in the watershed.
Danny Gregg/411 Taylor/Not willing to take risks with our water. Should work toward simplicity.
Steve Pearce/700 Butler Creek/Felt that the expansion and environmental issues can work hand in hand. Noted that Mt Ashland Association has worked hard to protect and improve the ski area. He felt that without the programs offered through Mt. Ashland Association our children may not experience the forest. Feels its time to move forward and time for decisive action.
Shelley Elkovich/919 Oak Street/Spoke in opposition to the expansion. Commented that there is an abandoned beginner run and does not understand the need for additional development. Feels that current improvements need to take place. She noted that the pristine middle branch area should be protected. Felt that the term "restoration" is absurd, that there is no going back. Requests that the council monitor current issues on the mountain.
Pat Acklin/270 Scenic/Noted that she is a seven-year board member for Mt. Ashland Association and that there is a history of compromise and shared examples of past compromises. Commented there are too many arguments based on emotion rather than science. Commented on the sediment rates over the past years.
Ron Roth/6950 Old Hwy 99S/Noted that he is a seven-year board member for Mt. Ashland Association and past board member of HeadWaters. It is his opinion that the problem with Mt. Ashland is that it is a "crowded park." Stated that additional terrain is needed. Explained that Alternative 6 does not enter into the middle branch. Problem with Alternative 2 is with crossing the creeks. Acknowledged that there would be minimal impact but that for the good of the community it should be done.
Tracy Bungay/334 Bridge Street/Spoke in opposition to the expansion and stating that the risks are too great. She cannot understand the other side that supports the expansion. Does not trust the Mt. Ashland Association. Voiced her disappointment that the council did not hike the area with representatives who were not with the US Forest Service.
Stephen Kindler Stout/130 Orange Street/Suggested that those that support the expansion not use the ski area during the busy times. Commented on the failure of democracy.
Ryan Navickas/711 Faith Street/Feels that the city has under-reported the risks due to an expansion. Noted the deep political ties to those interested in the expansion. Requests that the council seek pure scientific data before expansion moves forward. He presented 1,000 signatures from local residents who signed in opposition of the proposed expansion. Stated that this is our watershed not a playground for the rogue valley. Made known that there would be strong opposition to the expansion.
Jason Clark/142 6th Street/Spoke regarding the Englemann spruce and that they are a unique plant community that does not occur anywhere else. Stated that the area that would be effected in regards to streams is larger than what was indicated. Commented that global warming is real and is beyond consideration in regards to this expansion. Feels that expansion into the middle branch is a bad idea. Requested that the council make a statement that puts expansion into the middle branch "to bed."
Jim McCarthy/40 Granite Street/Spoke in opposition of the expansion into the watershed. He stated that consideration should be taken on what will be lost and that economic reason should not be the priority. He stated that safety concerns are based on the lack of enforcement. Commented on the need of improvement to the lodge and lifts.
Marko Bey/1745 Ashland/Spoke in opposition of the expansion. He shared his experience with repairing damaged ecosystems. Questioned if those supporting the expansion had spent quality time in the middle branch area. Encouraged the council to do the right thing, that water is priceless. Strongly discouraged the council on moving into the middle branch.
Chris Chambers/590 Elizabeth Avenue/Reminded the council of their moral responsibilities for the Valdez Principals. He stated that the Valdez Principals were adopted to guide our decisions with an eye on sustainability. He commented that in addition to the complex biological issues that are involved, there is an explosive social dilemma. Because of the divisive nature of the situation, he felt that the council has a unique opportunity to not satisfy any of the interested parties by supporting a middle ground. Requested that the council support Alternative 3 with modifications.
Tom Dimitri/Represented the Sierra Club and stated that they do not support Alternative 2 or 6. Commented that 80 football fields of old growth would be clear-cut in the middle branch. For this reason, the Sierra Club supports Alternative 5 with modifications to include removal of marine lodge, cut out parking lot expansion and to include a shuttle service. Stated that the proposed expansion cost is estimated at $6.1 million and that Mt. Ashland Association has indicated that they could raise $2 million, questioned where the remaining $4.1 million would come from. He felt that the cost of expansion is a figure that no has explained and will only increase.
Derek Volkart/78 4th Street/Acknowledged that serious compromise has taken place, but that the mountain has compromised more than anyone had. He feels that the mountain is more than a ski area. Offered to take skiers into the backcountry. Urged those in opposition to the expansion to stay vigilant.
Christopher Garvey/1250 Ashland Mine Road/Commented that he does not see "alternatives" but only "build or not build." Stated he is neither pro or anti expansion but pro common sense. That Ashland has an unbelievable unique situation and opportunity to mold community resources is a virtually unparalleled. He noted the need for improved attention to guest services and facilities. He thought that after 20 years there would have been more significant progress with the little things that would inspire confidence when handling the larger things. He challenged the management to submit guest services analysis and then to prove their ability to complete the details. He felt that current practices do not practice a commitment to beginner or intermediate skiers and questioned why we should believe that fancy new lifts, runs and lodges would change this. In closing, he suggested that there are many ways in which Mt. Ashland could improve without the addition of new lifts, new runs, or new lodges. And, that there needs to be necessary common sense improvements to the current infrastructure. He believes that it is time for Mt. Ashland to truly behave as a community resort.
Alexander Achegma/54 N Mountain/Spoke in opposition to the expansion based his reasons on photo documentation and destruction of wildlife. He felt that there are more sustainable ways of entertainment and skiing than expansion.
Meeting was adjourned at 11:05 p.m.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
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