Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Forest Service proposes to implement first phase of Bald Mountain plan

Agency seeking comments on Sun Valley Co. proposal

Express Staff Writer

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to implement the first phase of Sun Valley Co.'s 10-year update to its master development plan for Bald Mountain.

The Sawtooth National Forest's Ketchum Ranger District announced last week it is preparing an environmental impact statement to analyze the environmental effects of approving and implementing selected projects from the 2005 Sun Valley Master Development Plan. In addition, the EIS will analyze the effects of implementing portions of a Vegetation Management Plan that was completed for the ski area in early 2005.

"Before we make any decisions regarding master development plan projects on public lands, we need to complete a thorough analysis of the proposal's effects on the biological and social environment," said Joe Miczulski, recreation specialist for the Ketchum Ranger District. "Our resource specialists will be analyzing the proposal from many perspectives, including wildlife and vegetation resources, soils and hydrology, noise, cultural resources, visual quality and recreational effects. At this time, we're asking the public to bring forth any issues or ideas that they feel we need to address during the analysis process."

Sun Valley Co.'s ski-area use permit for Bald Mountain is set to expire in December 2007. The resort operator is now seeking to extend the permit for 40 years and to gain approval for a 10-year update of the mountain's development plan.

The Sun Valley proposal is being processed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the managers of Bald Mountain's public lands.

The 2005 master development plan provides conceptual strategy and direction for operations throughout the ski area adjacent to Ketchum for an approximate 10- to- 12-year planning period. However, only a portion of these projects—collectively referred to as the Phase 1 projects—are proposed at this time. Because all proposed projects are on public lands, review and analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act is required.

The Phase 1 projects include:

· Constructing new trails.

· Adding snowmaking coverage.

· Constructing a gondola from River Run to the Roundhouse restaurant.

· Removing of the Exhibition chairlift.

· Renovating the Roundhouse restaurant.

· Adjusting the ski area's permit boundary.

· Constructing a terrain park.

· Implementing portions of the 2005 Vegetation Management Plan, which proposes to improve the health of the forest ecosystem.

Numerous public comments were received during a draft master development plan scoping process, which occurred in spring 2005. The comments were shared with Sun Valley Co. Based on those comments, Sun Valley Co. modified and submitted the final master development plan update to the U.S. Forest Service.

Modifications to the plan include:

· Replacing the Christmas lift with a detachable quad or 6-place chairlift instead of a gondola.

· Replacing the Lookout chairlift when deemed appropriate, instead of eliminating it.

· Considering replacing the Challenger lift at Warm Springs with a detachable quad or 6-place lift instead of a gondola.

· Reducing some acreage of the ski area so a proposed expansion—mainly near Seattle Ridge—does not provide a net increase in acreage.

At this time, the plan has been accepted as final. Therefore, the U.S. Forest Service is again soliciting public comments as the initial portion of an environmental analysis that will assess the potential effects of implementing Phase 1 of the plan, as well as portions of the Vegetation Management Plan.

Those who provided comments on the draft plan will be receiving a scoping packet in the mail. The packet is available at the Ketchum Ranger Station and the supervisor's office in Twin Falls, as well on-line at the Sawtooth National Forest's Web site,

Comments should be submitted to: Kurt Nelson, District Ranger, Ketchum Ranger District, P.O. Box 2356, Ketchum, ID 83340; (208) 622-3923 (fax); or by submitting an e-mail to: For additional information contact Joe Miczulski, project leader, at (208) 622-5371.

To be most helpful, please submit comments by Oct. 1, 2005.

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