Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Congress to consider Sun Valley land swap

Legislation would be first step toward more golf


By TREVOR SCHUBERT
Express Staff Writer

For years Sun Valley Co. has planned to host 36 holes of golf in and around the Trail Creek valley. This month Congress plans to consider a proposed land swap between the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Sun Valley Co. that would make construction of the final nine holes possible.

The area sought by Sun Valley Co. includes the flat bench to the south of Trail Creek and east of the resort's existing 18-hole course. The land sought runs up to the base of Morgan Ridge—the same area scorched by the Trail Creek Fire earlier this summer.

In the Idaho Land Conveyance Act of 2007, introduced by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, Sun Valley Co. would acquire land administered by the Forest Service near Boundary Creek Campground. In return, Sun Valley Co. would transfer land near River Run Lodge to the Forest Service, which would then pass it to the BLM, said Lori Armstrong, field office manager for BLM's Shoshone Field Office. In addition, it's possible that the BLM would then give an as-yet-unidentified small section of land to the Forest Service. No segment is larger than 50 acres.

"This land will be for the final nine holes we have planned," said Jack Sibbach, director of sales, marketing and public relations for Sun Valley Co.

Sibbach said that not all nine holes are on that land. Hole 10, for example, will start by the new Clubhouse and Nordic center on land already owned by Sun Valley Co. He said the exact course layout has not been determined.

Sibbach said that if the swap is approved, the land would be used for other recreational activities aside from golf, including multi-purpose trails similar to those built above the new Gun Club-9 nine hole golf course. Construction of the Gun Club-9 is ongoing, the completion of which will give Sun Valley Co. 27 holes in the valley. The trails above the Gun Club-9 opened for hiking on Monday.

"We have no plans to cut anybody out who has been using the area," Sibbach said. "I personally spend a lot of time in that area jogging and biking."

Depending on the outcome of congressional action on the bill and whether the action is determined to fall under the National Environmental Policy Act, several courses of action could follow, said Kurt Nelson, district ranger for the Ketchum Ranger District.

If the action falls under NEPA, either an Environmental Impact Statement or a less comprehensive Environmental Assessment would be required. Both provide opportunity for public input.

"The analysis (done by the Congress) considers impacts on the land, resources and the benefits and losses that will result from the project," Armstrong said.

"We're playing it neutral right now," Nelson said. "It's moving through the legislative arm of government and at some point a Forest Service representative could be called on to testify about the potential land-swap."




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