Climate change threatens ski plans

Climate change threatens ski plans

On Sept. 14 I attended a forum at SOU about the proposed Mount Ashland ski expansion. I learned that the expansion would roughly double the current footprint of the ski operation and that it would be located in the part of our watershed most vulnerable to landslides.

Landslide mapping using LIDAR imaging of the terrain by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries has provided this new information about erosion hazards in the Bear Creek Valley, including Ashland's watershed. I would have liked to ask the Forest Service and Mt. Ashland Association whether they considered this new information prior to moving ahead with their plans for the expansion; however, they were not present, having failed to accept the invitation of the student group Phronesis, which organized the forum.

Earlier the same evening I attended the Climate Reality Project Evening sponsored by the Ashland Conservation Commission at the Historic Ashland Armory, with opening remarks by Mayor Stromberg. We were told how our region is likely to experience much less snowfall and much more rainfall in the future as a result of climate change, that the rain would likely be intense in the winter months of January and February and diminish or disappear during the other months, and that flooding and sedimentation in our waterways would become greater problems.

How on earth can our community allow the ski expansion as currently proposed to move forward, given the scenario described by this new information? Is our community really willing to risk its water supply for a few more ski runs, especially when other options for expansion exist?

Who will be accountable and who will pay, should the expansion result in catastrophic damage to our water supply? If Daily Tidings readers are concerned about this issue, I urge them to contact the U.S. Forest Service (Scott Conroy in Medford and Debbie Anderson and Kent Connaughton in Portland) as well as Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Readers may also wish to consider whether they will continue to ski at Mount Ashland should these concerns not be addressed.

Barbara Comnes