Kirkwood ski resort facing fines over reported wetlands contamination | SierraSun.com

Kirkwood ski resort facing fines over reported wetlands contamination

Claire Cudahy
ccudahy@tahoedailytribune.com

A photo taken at the end of April shows the asphalt road grindings mixed in with snow around Kirkwood Creek.

KIRKWOOD, Calif. — Kirkwood Mountain Resort may face stiff fines after an anonymous complaint called attention to asphalt road grindings deposited around Kirkwood Creek due to snow plowing over the winter, according to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The Vail Resorts-owned ski destination is in the process of cleaning up the mess.

Public documents from the water board reveal that staff inspected the resort on April 27 and "confirmed that asphalt grindings were widely deposited outside of the parking lots as a result of snow removal operations."

The grindings were said to have been used "to resurface resort parking lots."

“It looked like a black snow field. Actually under that snow field is a running stream or a highly sensitive meadow area.”Ryan HansonCalifornia Department of Fish and Wildlife warden and leader of the cleanup team

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In a May 6 letter to Vail Resorts, the inspectors expressed concerns about the impact the asphalt would have on the surface and ground water — and also charged the company with a Clean Water Act violation.

Over the course of the investigation, according to the water board, it was revealed that for 49 days crews removed snow from the parking lots with plows and blowers, ultimately spreading the asphalt onto wetlands around the Kirkwood Creek.

The extent of the impact on the water quality has not yet been released.

"It looked like a black snow field. Actually under that snow field is a running stream or a highly sensitive meadow area," Ryan Hanson, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden and leader of the cleanup team, told CBS Sacramento — the news source that originally broke the story on Aug. 23.

According to water board officials, roughly 700 cubic yards of material have been collected.

Kirkwood responded to specific questions on the incident with a prepared statement.

"Since receiving this notice, we have been coordinating closely with the Water Quality Board and other agencies to conduct a site assessment and will be further remediating any impacts to the local environment as necessary based on that assessment," reads the statement. "Kirkwood takes very seriously our role in acting responsibly to protect the environment and will be taking steps to ensure that we protect our waterways from these types of issues."

A fine for the violation will be determined once the cleanup is completed, but according to the initial letter sent by the water board, penalties could reach $10,000 for each day of the violation.