By Klee Benally
Flagstaff, AZ — On March 28, 2013, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) made it very clear that he doesn’t care about Indigenous Peoples or public health. McCain would appear to be in the pocket of multimillionaire ski area owner and Scottsdale based real estate developer, Eric Borowsky.
In his statement, McCain intentionally omits the full story of the decades long struggle to protect the Holy San Francisco Peaks from Snowbowl expansion and sewage effluent snowmaking, including the facts that the case has gone up to the Supreme court and has been recognized nationally as a precedent impacting Indigenous People’s religious freedom (Navajo Nation v. United States Forest Service). Even the United Nations has begun to weigh in on the issue.
McCain’s statement is wrought with factually inaccuracies.
McCain: “After a long struggle with the federal government, snowmaking is finally working there, just as many of us anticipated.”
FACT: The Coconino National Forest Service approved treated sewage snowmaking in 2005 and defended its decision in court using tax -payer’s dollars.
The Federal Government in the form of the Coconino National Forest Service aggressively fought to insure Snowbowl could expand and make snow from treated sewage. Six Indigenous Nations and three environmental groups filed lawsuits against the U.S. Forest Service for allowing the Arizona Snowbowl to expand its operations and extend its season using artificial snowmaking.
From 2009-2010, the City of Flagstaff held secret meetings with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to find another, less controversial, source of water (which ended up only adding to the controversy). At that point USDA Secretary Vilsack sent a letter that announced he would not sign a permit to allow reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking at Snowbowl. Instead it will be from an “expanded” source. Snowbowl did not “struggle with the federal government,” – In fact, the ski resort owner worked alongside the USDA in hopes of receiving an 11 million dollar government subsidy and access to Flagstaff’s drinking water.
In 2009, McCain vowed to block Obama appointees to the USDA if wastewater snowmaking at Snowbowl wasn’t immediately approved.
McCain attempts to portray Snowbowl as a victim of the National Environmental Policy Act, “The federal government’s environmental studies of the project cost about $1 million with Arizona Snowbowl bearing the brunt of those costs.” Evidently McCain prefers that developers have their way with public lands without any environmental impact study.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement reveals:
“It is unrealistic to think that the Snowbowl would be a significant driver of tourism activity or the economy” – Coconino Forest Service Draft Environmental Impact Statement Page 3-121
“In contrast with a number of other ski resorts in the Rocky Mountain region, the Arizona Snowbowl is not a dominant driver of growth and the economy in its host community.” – Coconino Forest Service Draft Environmental Impact Statement Page 3-71
The ski area plan would “further contaminate the spiritual purity of the entire Peaks beyond the historic and existing levels.” Final Environmental Impact Statement Vol 1 Page 3-18
“Snowmaking and expansion of facilities, especially the use of reclaimed water, would contaminate the natural resources needed to perform the required ceremonies that have been, and continue to be, the basis for the cultural identity for many of these tribes.” -Final Environmental Impact Statement Vol 1 Page 3-18
“The proposed action would represent the highest degree of potential disproportionate adverse impact to Native American cultures.” – Final Environmental Impact Statement Vol 1 Page 3-370
McCain states, “During the season’s opening weeks, a thick base was laid on the slopes using about one-fifth of treated water made available by the City of Flagstaff.”
“…treated water” is one thing, treated sewage effluent is another.
Considering that the Forest Service, ADEQ & City of Flagstaff conducted no studies on human impacts if anyone were to consume the treated sewage snow, how responsible is that?
John McCain is also in the midst of wrestling the Navajo & Hopi Nations into waiving rights to the Little Colorado River: And he has authored multiple bills [SB1003, S1973-1] to expedite forced relocation of Dine’ families from their homes on Black Mesa.
McCain states, “I encourage all Arizonans to enjoy the remaining two weeks of this year’s snowmaking season at Arizona Snowbowl.” He is really calling for further desecration of the holy Peaks.
More info: www.protectthepeaks.org, www.truesnow.org