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Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area Enhancement Projects Scoping Letter

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Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area Enhancement Projects Scoping Letter Powered By Docstoc
					 United States           Forest         Mt. Hood National Forest              Hood River Ranger District
 Department of           Service                                              6780 Highway 35
 Agriculture                                                                  Mt. Hood-Parkdale, OR 97041
                                                                              541-352-6002
                                                                              FAX 541-352-7365

                                                                 File Code: 1950/2720
                                                                      Date: October 8, 2010

Dear Interested Party:

The Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest has identified you as an individual,
agency, or organization that might be interested in commenting on our proposal for enhancements at Mt.
Hood Meadows Ski Resort. The Proposed Action is to enhance visitor experience while improving
environmental conditions at the ski area.

In January 1997, the Forest Service issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for Mt. Hood Meadows Ski
Area Master Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement (Master Plan), including Forest Plan
Amendment No. 10. The ROD and Master Plan defines the desired future condition for an expanded
permit area; provides general direction for future development at Mt. Hood Meadows; and establishes
winter sports design capacity and summer use maximum capacities. The approval for future development
does not authorization specific facilities or uses, define the exact location of facilities, nor stipulate a
timeline for development. Rather, it conceptually approves the number and approximate locations of lifts,
additional ski terrain, base area expansions, other winter facilities and uses, access and service roads, and
summer uses. Implementation requires additional site-specific environmental analysis pursuant to
requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

In March 2010, Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort (MHM) requested the Forest Service consider a proposal
to replace the Stadium lift with a high speed quad lift. This upgrade was anticipated in the Master Plan. In
addition to the lift replacement, the proposal incorporates wetland restoration at Blue Wetlands. The
original proposal for the Blue Wetland Restoration was submitted to the Forest Service in May 2002. The
proposal was put on-hold until additional research could be conducted at the wetlands; the research is
concluding this October. Through the development of these proposals, two additional environmental
enhancements were added to the project: restoration of the Yellow Wetland and replacement of a culvert
of the north service road. Pursuant to the direction in the ROD and Master Plan, this Environmental
Assessment (EA) will analyze the environmental consequences of the proposed enhancements at MHM.

Background
The existing Stadium lift was installed in 1967. It has been well-maintained and upgraded, but does not
provide adequate out-of-base capacity for its existing alignment. As a result, lift lines on Stadium lift are
often long or visitors ride the Mt. Hood Express lift in order to avoid the lines. The relatively small
double chairs are susceptible to high winds, often resulting in closure of Stadium lift during high winds,
increasing demand on the Mt. Hood Express lift.

Currently most skiers in the Main Base Area ride the Mt. Hood Express lift to access the lifts and terrain
on the northern side of the ski area (e.g., Shooting Star Express, Heather, and Hood River Express ski
lifts). This leads to long lines because the demand placed on the Mt. Hood Express lift exceeds its
capacity. The existing Stadium lift provides out-of-base capacity, but does not provide access to the
terrain on the northern side of the ski area. Visitors who ride the Mt Hood Express lift must ski Tillicum
trail to access the northern ski terrain. During the morning peak, the resulting skier densities on Tillicum
trail are high. Typically, more advanced skiers carry high speed through a low-gradient section of
Tillicum near the intersection with the more novice-level North Canyon trail. The high density of skiers
and speed carried by the more advanced skiers detracts from the experience of lower level skiers on North



                                   Caring for the Land and Serving People                     Printed on Recycled Paper
Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort Enhancements                                                                      2


Canyon trail.

Historically, the Main Base Area contained numerous streams and wetlands. The existing load point on
Stadium lift is a wetland area that was filled to create the loading area. Also in the base area, a depression
near the Blue bottom terminal provides an opportunity to create/restore wetlands in the base area (Blue
Wetland). The project area at the base of the Blue lift is a former wetland that was filled when the ski area
was first developed in 1966, prior to the Clean Water Act. An additional environmental enhancement
includes a culvert replacement on an existing service road. The existing north service road culvert is not
large enough to pass debris, as a result the culvert has been blocked by tree limbs and overtopped on two
occasions resulting in erosion of the road and sediment deposition downslope.

Purpose and Need for Action
The purpose of the project is to enhance visitor experience while improving environmental conditions at
Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort. The enhancements include: replacing the existing fixed grip double
Stadium chairlift with a high speed detachable chairlift; restoring the wetlands near the base of the
proposed lift and concurrently near the base of the existing Blue chairlift; and replacing the undersized
culvert on the north service road. Specific management objectives and underlying needs are to:

        To revise the alignment of Stadium lift to provide additional out-of-base capacity that accesses
        the north side ski pods in order to reduce demand on the Mt. Hood Express lift and upgrade the
        chairlift to one that is more reliable in high wind conditions;
        To provide more direct access to the north side lifts in order to reduce densities and skier safety
        and experience on Tillicum and North Canyon trails;
        To increase the capacity of the north service road culvert to allow the passage of debris; and,
        To restore wetlands at the bottom terminal of Stadium and Blue chairlifts.

Proposed Action: Stadium Lift Replacement
The Proposed Action is to replace the existing Stadium lift with a high-speed, detachable quad chairlift in
a longer alignment that provides direct out-of-base access to the northern ski pods. The existing lift would
be removed over-the-snow or using a helicopter, except where existing roads provide suitable access. The
existing footings would be left in place with the anchor bolts cut off. After removal of the top terminal,
the existing dirt road accessing the top terminal would be decommissioned.

For the new lift, tower footings would be excavated and towers would be placed by crane from existing
roads or by helicopter. New power lines would be buried under existing roads and communication/control
lines would be supported from towers or buried in existing roads. Seven additional night light poles
would be installed between the existing and proposed top terminal sites to ensure that the new egress
trails are adequately lit.

The lift replacement project would be designed to:
         Avoid placement of fill in any streams or wetlands;
         Take advantage of the existing lift corridor and night lighting;
         Avoid known Shorthair reed grass (Calamagrostis breweri) sites; and,
         Minimize tree removal and earthwork.

Approximately 0.19 acres of trees (199 dead and live trees) would be removed along the existing lift line
and near the new top terminal site to allow construction of the lift and to provide skier egress to the
existing ski runs. See Table 1 for a total tree count of the trees to be removed.
Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort Enhancements                                                                   3


           Table 1: Trees Removed by Stadium Lift Replacement Project
                                                  Tree Count by Species

                  Tree Class           White Bark
                                                        Hemlock      Snags     Other     Totals
                                         Pine

            1" to 6" Height                                 3                     5        8
            6” Height to <6" dbh             1             42           2        45        90
            ≥6" to <12" dbh                                39           8         5        52
            ≥ 12" dbh                                      32          15         2        49
            Totals                         1               116         25        57       199
            *Snags include white bark pine snags.

Proposed Action: Environment Enhancements
This environmental analysis incorporates three environmental enhancements projects: Blue Wetland
Restoration; Yellow Wetland Restoration; and North Service Road Culvert Replacement. Each project is
described below.

Blue Wetland Restoration: Approximately 1,717 cubic yards of fill will be removed in order to restore
23,545 square feet of wetland near the bottom of Blue Chair. A small ditch would be filled and a culvert
plugged so the site would no longer be dewatered. This will result in an additional 2,863 square feet of
wetland restoration at Blue Wetland. The existing gravel road will be reconstructed to allow water to flow
through to newly restored wetland. Removed fill material will be hauled off-site and used in the lift
replacement project.

Yellow Wetland Restoration: To restore the Yellow Wetland at the base of Stadium lift, fill material in
the existing load area at the bottom terminal would be removed to restore approximately 0.88 acre of
wetland. The existing footings located within the wetland would be broken up or removed in order to
allow water to move through the wetland. All new towers and construction associated with the Stadium
lift replacement would avoid impacts to the Yellow Wetland.

North Service Road Culvert Replacement: The culvert replacement on the north service road would take
place in late summer when there is no water in the intermittent stream. The existing 18-inch culvert would
be dug out using an excavator and a new 36-inch culvert would be installed. The larger culvert would
allow debris flow to place through the culvert without exceeding the capacity of the culvert and causing
erosion and sedimentation.

Opportunity for Public Comment
The Mt. Hood National Forest is now seeking comments from individuals, organizations, local and state
governments, and other federal agencies that may be interested in or affected by the Proposed Action.
Comments may pertain to the nature and scope of the environmental, social, and economic issues, and
possible alternatives to the proposed action. Your comments will help us assess the proposed action,
develop alternatives and prepare an Environmental Assessment.

Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who
comment, will be considered part of the public record for this project, available for public inspection, and
released if requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Forest Service would like your scoping comments by November 12, 2010. Please send your written
comments to: Jennie O’Connor Card, Hood River Ranger District, 6780 Highway 35, Mount Hood-
Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort Enhancements                                                                  4


Parkdale, Oregon 97041; FAX: (541) 352-7365. You may also hand-deliver your comments to the above
address during normal business hours which are 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays. Electronic comments may be submitted to
comments-pacificnorthwest-mthood-hoodriver@fs.fed.us in a format such as an e-mail message, plain
text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), or Word (.doc). All those who comment will remain on our mailing list
and receive future updates on this proposal.

Electronic maps and other information about the project are available on the Internet at:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood/projects/nepa_project.shtml?project=26957. If you have any questions
concerning this proposal, please contact Jennie O’Connor Card at (541) 352-1255 or
jennieoconnorcard@fs.fed.us.



Sincerely,

/s/ Daina L. Bambe

DAINA L. BAMBE
District Ranger

				
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