The Shanty Hollow Corporation, owner of the Hunter Mountain ski resort in the Catskills, has applied for a stream disturbance permit to increase its snowmaking capabilities. They state that this need is due, in part, to global warming and the lack of natural snow fall in recent years. The Hunter Mountain proposals calls for: improvements to a diversion weir in Schoharie Creek and inlet channel to Dolan’s Lake; expansion of existing water storage reservoirs by 5.5 million gallon; construction of a second water intake structure on Schoharie Creek; and construction of a new water storage reservoir with a capacity of 30 to 25 million gallons.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is the lead agency responsible for the environmental review of the Hunter Mountain project. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement(DEIS) was completed on July 6, 2007 and open for public comments through the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review process. In addition, the project is also the subject of adjudicatory proceedings before a DEC Administrative Law Judge. Petitions for party status and an issues conference were held in August 2007.
Riverkeeper, along with the Catskills Center for Conservation and Development and New York Public Interest Group Fund Inc. (which together form the Clean Drinking Water Coalition), submitted comments on the DEIS on September 25, 2007. The Coalitions is concerned about impacts to water quality and aquatic ecology, particular the potential for construction activities to cause or axacerbate turbity problems in the Schoharie Creek. Moreover, we question the need for increased water storage and snowmaking. Our comments seek clarity on whether these activities are needed to survice the exiting ski trails or whether this project is merely the first phase of a larger development plan for additional trails or other structures.
Under a 1990 consent order with DEC, Hunter Mountain is required to ensure a minimum in-stream flow of 11 cubic feet per second (cfs) in Schoharie Creek. The DEIS appears to comply with the terms of this consent order. Because of the additional reservoir storage, Hunter Mountain expects to increase, not decrease, the minimum in-stream flow to at least 15 cfs.