Huxley College Graduate and Undergraduate Publications

College Affiliation

Huxley College of the Environment

Department or Program Affiliation

Department of Environmental Studies

Abstract

1.1 Purpose This Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) aims to evaluate the potential impacts of updating the infrastructure of Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area in Olympic National Park. The Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club (HRWSC) means to replace the current lifts, which have been in service more than 50 years, and are on the end of their service lives. In this document, the proposed action and an alternative are investigated for potential impacts on the National Park land and surrounding communities; the future prospects of removing the Ski Area's lifts are likewise considered. Both action alternatives replace the current POMA lift and rope tows with a Magic Carpet lift, a new rope tow, and a similar surface lift, all powered by electricity produced by a central diesel generator, rather than the current system of gasoline powered, mechanically driven lifts. No action would involve removing the lift systems once they have deprecated beyond repair. 1.2 Site Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is the westernmost lift-­‐operated ski area in the Lower 48, one of 3 located within National Park lands, and the only one on the Olympic Peninsula. Seventeen miles up Heart O' the Hills Road from Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge provides downhill and cross-­‐country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing opportunities to residents of the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas. With two rope tows and one surface lift, the Ski and Snowboard Area aims to serve some 5,500 people each winter, depending on weather conditions. The POMA surface lift is dependent on snow accumulation to open, often pushing back its first day of operation to the end of January. The rope tows tend to begin operation a couple weeks prior to the POMA lift opening. Cross-­‐country skiers and snowshoers typically see their season start in December. The Winter Sports Club provides lessons and hosts some events each season, which tend to last until April. Hurricane Ridge has a base elevation of approximately 4,800 feet, with a peak of 5,500. The Ski Area installation predated the National Environmental Protection Act, so no Environmental Impact Statement was required at the time it was built. 1.3 Problem Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is no longer eligible for or capable of repairs – the manufacturer will not issue parts for liability reasons related to the age of the equipment. In order to preserve skiing in the Olympics for the future, Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club wants to replace the lifts with modern equipment. 1.3.1 Proposed Action The proposed action is to replace the POMA lift with a modern surface lift, the beginner rope tow with a Magic Carpet surface lift, and a new rope tow on the intermediate rope tow. All three lifts will be powered by electricity produced by a central diesel power generator rather than the current three independent gasoline motors mechanically driving the lifts. The new surface lift in the POMA bowl would include filling gullies to allow for an earlier opening of the POMA lift, therefore increasing the length of the viable ski season. 1.3.2 Alternative Action The alternative course of action proposed is identical to the initial proposal, except for filling the gullies in the POMA bowl. The alternative proposal is to build a bridge-­‐type structure above the gullies, which would allow the lift to open earlier but also permit melt water runoff to drain into the gullies and down into the Elwha watershed. The alternative action aims to mimic the benefit of bumping up opening day for the HRSSA by effectively leveling the gullies under snowfall, but in a way sensitive to hydrology present in the landscape. All other upgrades to the lifts remain the same as the initial proposal. 1.3.3 No Action Alternative No action on the HRSSA would lead to inevitable closure due to the lifts falling into disrepair within five years, as estimated by the Winter Sports Club. Once all three lifts are unusable they would be removed, and the landscape of Hurricane Ridge would restore itself to its natural condition. No lifts would operate on the Olympic Peninsula. 1.4 Recommendation The recommended action is to follow the alternative action because it reflects the benefits of the proposed action, while minimizing the impacts that would result from gully fill. By creating a structure that would permit runoff and melt water to pass down the slope, erosion would remain in its natural state. Filling the gullies would alter the hydrology, and likely be eroded swiftly if too soft or not anchored with plant life, thus impacting the watershed of the Elwha River. Fill may also be sourced from a location that would not match the soil profile of the lift path or may be contaminated. These risks can be avoided by installing permanent structures, which would fix the path of the T-­‐bar lift in the ski season while not interrupting natural hydrological processes.

Document Type

Environmental Impact Assessment

Subject – LCSH (for OAI)

Ski resorts--Environmental aspects--Washington (State)--Hurricane Ridge; Forest management--Washington (State)--Olympic National Park; Environmental impact analysis--Washington (State)--Hurricane Ridge; Hurricane Ridge (Wash.)--Environmental conditions; Olympic National Park (Wash.)--Environmental conditions

Geographic Coverage

Hurricane Ridge (Wash.); Olympic National Park (Wash.)

Genre/Form

Environmental impact statement

Publisher

Western Washington University

Date

Winter 2012

First Advisor

Bodensteiner, Leo R.,

OCLC Number

790491436

Rights

Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author's written permission.

Date Permissions signed

3-11-2012

Type

Text

Format

application/pdf

Language

English

Department

Environmental Studies

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