WENATCHEE — Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort has filed an $8 million claim with Chelan County alleging it has been trying to delay or prevent development plans.
The resort, owned by Tamarack Saddle, alleges in a July claim of damages that the county has been conspiring to prevent the company’s environmental assessment from being approved. The claim names groups like the Wenatchee Sportsman’s Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
“There’s multiple issues of whether it’s being done fairly, properly and timely,” said Josh Jorgensen, Mission Ridge general manager. “There are quite a few things that are concerning for us.”
The claim was filed with the county in July. Jorgensen said he couldn’t get into too many specifics as lawyers are involved. The company filed its application to expand the resort on April 23, 2018, according to the claim.
A claim is often filed before a lawsuit.
County staff issued a determination of significance in May when doing an environmental review of the Mission Ridge master planned resort application, according to county documents. A determination of significance means a full environmental report needs to be made and Mission Ridge may need to mitigate for anything from environmental to cultural impacts.
According to the update letter issued on Monday about the environmental analysis, the county is looking at some of the following:
- Potential geohazards, such as landslides
- Whether there will be enough groundwater for a resort
- Impacts to plants and animals, in particular elk and mule deer
The resort’s expansion would be a 500-acre addition with more lifts and areas for skiing, a lodge, an outdoor summer concert venue, 621 condominiums, townhouses, duplexes and 275 single-family dwellings, according to news sources and county documents.
The claim of damages Mission Ridge filed includes:
- Land value — $6,000,000
- Legal counsel — $77,105
- Planning — $119,201
- Resort design — $151,274
- Environmental consulting — $332,638
- Engineering — $65,837
- Geotechnical — $73,183
- Staff time — $341,625
The Forest Service is also conducting an environmental review. A draft environmental assessment was filed in February, according to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s website.
The ski resort would like to build new ski facilities on Forest Service land using its existing special permit and build road access through Forest Service land, according to the draft assessment. The direct impact on Forest Service lands would be to about 1,090 acres, but the Forest Service expanded its assessment to include potential indirect impacts.
According to the draft assessment, there are several wildlife species within the area that might be affected including:
- Cascade red fox
- Pileated woodpeckers
- American martens
- Flammulated owl
- Western toad
- White-headed woodpecker
- The Northern Spotted Owl
- The gray wolf
The assessment did not find that any of these species would be greatly impacted by the expansion.
One of the concerns in regards to the expansion is the impact on Canadian lynx, a federally threatened species, as there is about 32 acres of lynx habitat at risk, according to the draft assessment. Development would reduce habitat for snow hares, depriving lynx of a food source. Skiing would also compact the snow, benefiting the lynx’s competitors, bobcats and coyotes.
The draft assessment says development may, but will likely not affect Canadian lynx, according to the draft assessment.
As for elk, the development would increase low quality elk habitat from 50% to 52% in the project area. Disturbances could alter elk movement, but the animals are highly mobile and capable of finding different routes. The project shouldn’t impact their population numbers, according to the assessment.
Also according to the draft assessment, the proposed expansion:
- Would not impact water systems with proper buffers. No fish-bearing perennial streams are in the area.
- Could have some impact on whitebark pine, a sensitive species, but it would be minor.
- Would be consistent with fire management plans as the expansion would remove trees in areas in need of forest treatment. The area is already at a high risk for fire because of a lack of treatment.