City of Flagstaff Administratively Renews Controversial Contract with Ski Area for Wastewater Snowmaking
Native Media Not Invited to Participate in Press Conference
FLAGSTAFF, AZ — In spite of at least ten years of sustained public outcry from Indigenous Nations and community members, City of Flagstaff officials have administratively renewed a controversial 5 year contract to sell up to 180,000,000 gallons of treated sewage effluent to Arizona Snowbowl ski area for snowmaking purposes on the Holy San Francisco Peaks.
City Manager Kevin Burke spoke at a press conference today to explain the City’s actions. “Having determined that all obligations have been met by Arizona Snowbowl and the City, the Utilities Director renewed the agreement for a period commencing March 20, 2012 through March 20, 2017.” Burke stated.
Burke stated that of over 60 wastewater agreements, all of them are for uses inside City limits except for Arizona Snowbowl.
When questioned why the decision to renew the contract wasn’t opened to the public after years of public outcry to do so, Burke responded that the decision wasn’t subject to “legislative process.” Burke acknowledged that requests were made to open the process to the public but responded that he “didn’t have any council requests to place it on the agenda, there is no legislative process, its purely administrative.”
Burke responded to critics by stating, “There has been ample public participation. And this was not a legislative action, public participation doesn’t change the conditions of the agreement.”
City Manager Burke also stated that “there has been ample due process”, as he referred to the lawsuits against the Forest Service over human health concerns with reclaimed water, and the Hopi Tribe’s lawsuit against the City which recently lost in Superior Court.
When asked when the media advisory had gone out, Burke said, “This morning.” and when questioned if the media advisory went to tribal newspapers Burke stated, “I dont know.”
A City press officer stated, “It just went to my typical, my usual groups, it did not. it just went to the folks I normally send it to.”
When questioned if new information about concerns in wastewater were part of the City’s deliberations in renewing the contract, Burke responded, “In regards to the wastewater agreement, there are no deliberations in regard to modification to that agreement.”
When asked “How do you respond to critics that say the city has adopted an unofficial policy of cultural and racial intolerance?”, Burke stated, “I think thats an unfair characterization, there’s a lot more to our relationship than a single agreement. We’ve demonstrated in other discussions and work many collaborative aspects between the City of Flagstaff and Tribal Nations. Specifically the agreement reached with the Navajo Nation regarding pumping on Red Gap [Ranch] this past year is evidence these discussions can and do work.”
The City of Flagstaff purchased Red Gap Ranch, located 35 miles east of Flagstaff, near Navajo and Hopi lands, to address water shortage issues. The Navajo Nation initially threatened legal action against the City of Flagstaff to prevent Flagstaff’s water use from impacting the Navajo Nation.
As of today, Snowbowl has asked and received permission from the U.S. Forest Service to make snow from potable water trucked from an unidentified source, in an attempt to increase profits during Spring Break.