Volume 4, Number 44 - January 27, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Lakeside expansion approved
The creation of a master plan calling for further development at Lakeside Lodge Resort and Marina on the shoreline of Fremont Lake led to a sharp division in the views of residents and visitors who use the area.
Earlier this month, Bridger-Teton National Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton issued a decision record allowing construction of new facilities, including guest cabins, a 25-room lodge, campground facilities, expansion of the existing restaurant, additional boat slips and numerous other improvements. The overall theme of the site will remain rustic in nature, according to the plan, and the facilities will be designed to blend in with the surroundings.
Forest Service officials received heart-felt letters from people on both sides, some advocating continued improvements, with others urging a halt to further development along the lakeshore.
While some comments were nostalgic, much of the opposition and concern focused on the potential to contaminate the town's water supply.
The Forest Service noted that there are no known problems with water pollution and no problems are anticipated as the result of the expansion project. In addition, a water-quality monitoring program will indicate if any problems do result so corrective action can be taken. Forest Service officials also noted, "If problems are discovered from Lakeside Lodge, their operation will be stopped until it is corrected."
The Environmental Protection Agency wasn't placated by the proposed mitigation measures to protect water quality. The agency wrote, "However, even with the proposed mitigation measures, EPA Region 8 remains concerned that any significant expansion of Lakeside Lodge, with its increase in activity, will increase the likelihood of contamination, and generally degrade the microbiological and chemical quality of water in Fremont Lake. EPA is concerned that the expansion portends an increase in loss of control over human activities and land use in the watershed, and could likely result in the Town of Pinedale no longer being able to meet the watershed control requirements and other filtration avoidance criteria needed for the system to remain unfiltered. Failure to meet any one of the filtration avoidance criteria requires the installation of filtration within 18 months of such failure."
Concern over the potential cost of having the town forced into installing such a system was raised in a letter from Pinedale's Dave Vlcek. He requested that Craig Trulock and Cindy Stein (both employees of the Bridger-Teton National Forest), Greg Ptasnick (of Lakeside Lodge) and KJ&B Enterprises (the third-party contractor preparing the environmental assessment documents) be held financially responsible by putting up a surety bond of $10 million.
"As a 20-year taxpaying resident of Pinedale, I don't want to get stuck with the multi-million-dollar bill for the Forest Service's and Bob Reese's substandard assessment of the cumulative effect on my water supply on Fremont's fragile ecosystem," Vlcek wrote. "Perhaps these same Forest Service individuals and developers should all be held personally financially accountable if anyone gets sick or dies as a result of a degraded town of Pinedale water supply resulting from the urbanization of Fremont Lake."
Vlcek raised ethics concerns over Bob Reese's role in the Lakeside documents, suggesting Reese has a conflict of interest. Reese, the former Pinedale District Ranger for the Forest Service, is now with KJ&B Enterprises, the third-party contractor that prepared the environmental assessment documents. Reese and his wife Kathy Jo Pollock own KJ&B Enterprises. Pollock is employed by the Forest Service in a Utah office.
Vlcek wrote, "Such blatant conflict of interest by environmental assessment preparers cast serious, no, fatal doubt upon the balance, bias and adequacy of this environmental assessment."
The Forest Service response stated: "When Bob was hired by the resorts, it was reviewed at the (Forest Service's) Supervisor's Office level and elevated to the Regional Office for an opinion. There has never been any indication that this was found to be a conflict. Regarding Bob's relationship with the permittee prior to retiring from the Forest Service, he was not the responsible official for this permit, it is a Forest Supervisor's level permit."
Robert Barnes of Salt Lake City wrote that the declining lake level was a concern. He wrote: "The docking facilities and launch facilities are practically useless below certain water levels. Yet the irrigation companies continue to drain the lake in the late fall. Elsewhere, such as the Green River Valley, irrigation of hay meadows stops about July 20th. Yet the irrigation companies continue with their 'don't give a damn, we know our rights' to waste water."
The Forest Service responded: "As you state, the Fremont Lake water level in late summer goes down, making it harder to pursue recreation activities. As you know, the irrigation companies have water rights to use a certain amount of water for irrigation purposes. Since the water rights are controlled by the state and water rights have legal standing, this concern is outside the scope of this environmental assessment and is outside the jurisdiction of the Forest Service."
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department submitted a letter noting that it did not have any concerns pertaining to the project.
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