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Mount Snow Project Takes A Toll On Local Watershed

Brendan Ryan
Peak Resorts/Mount Snow
Mount Snow agreed to fill in a former gravel pit, shown here, with the material it removed to build a separate 120-million-gallon pond for snowmaking. The backfill is sending silt into the watershed; the resort is working to remedy the problem.

Local concern over large deposits of silt in two Deerfield Valley rivers has forced Mount Snow to call a public hearing on the issue.

Todd Menees is a river management engineer with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

When he first heard about Mount Snow's plan to do work above Cold Brook, he knew it was going to be mess.

"In 2012, in that first project meeting, I knew we were going to have problems,” Menees says. “In my mind's eye it was going to look like the stream flows after Irene. The first two or three weeks after Irene, it was just chocolate milk."

Mount Snow is building a new 120-million-gallon pond that it says will provide enough water to make snow for every trail on the mountain.

As part of permit for the undertaking, which is called the West Lake Project, Mount Snow has agreed to remediate a former gravel pit that had material illegally removed from it about 20 years ago.

That gravel pit, Menees says, is now a murky pond that has raised the temperature of Cold Brook and disrupted the natural wetlands.

The state asked Mount Snow to take the material it was dredging for its new lake and fill in the old gravel pit.

It's that work that has turned the Cold Brook into the color of dirty dish water.

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Mount Snow has scheduled a public meeting for December 1, at 6 p.m. at the Grand Summit Resort Hotel to talk about the work above Cold Brook, which is currently the color of dirty dishwater.

“And here we've got a short-term piece that nobody likes. Mount Snow doesn't like it. I don't like it. The state doesn't like it,” Menees says.

Workers have been trying to limit the amount of silt in the water, but the very fine particles have been flowing down through some of the filters they have put in place.

Dave Moulton, the director of operations at Mount Snow, says project engineers have been working since the summer on ways to filter out the particles.

"The one thing that our engineer pointed out is that the material is so fine, the particles are so minute, that it's like trying to filter dye out of water,” Moulton says. “These particles, what you see in the brook are so tiny that it's very hard to filter that out."

"Mount Snow doesn't like it. I don't like it. The state doesn't like it." - Todd Menees, Department of Environmental Conservation

Menees from the department of environmental conservation says he understands the public's concern, but says the work will eventually improve the watershed and reduce erosion.

"Having the sediment continue to move, once this is remediated, will be bringing Cold Brook and the Deerfield River back into a natural balance that wouldn't be achieved for decades if we didn't give Mother Nature a helping hand,” he says.

Mount Snow has scheduled a public meeting for December 1, at 6 p.m. at the Grand Summit Resort Hotel to talk about the work above Cold Brook.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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