Government Red Tape Could Hold Up Duluth Ski Project for Years
The good news? The feds support Lutsen Mountains ski resort’s planned expansion. The project would nearly double the amount of slopes for skiing by using 400 acres of bordering land in Superior National Forest. Everyone appears to be on the same page, most importantly the National Forest Service.
The expansion project could boost employment at peak ski season from about 250 to about 450 people. The company says the “proposed expansion and application for a special use permit is consistent with the Forest Service mission for this land and is similar to permits issued to other ski areas across the nation” that operate on National Forest lands.
There’s just one catch. It’s going to take the federal agency awhile to churn out the required paperwork to justify the reasons for regulatory approval. How long? No one’s saying. The process seems to be open-ended from the Duluth News Tribune account.
The plan, which requires a special use permit from the Forest Service, appears to be “viable,” said Kris Reichenbach, spokeswoman for the Superior National Forest. The agency will now begin the environmental review process which is expected to take months, if not years.
Lutsen would pay a fee to lease the land for the expanded ski hill, Jim Vick, marketing director for Lutsen Mountains, told the News Tribune.
The USFS can’t even conclusively tell the company which regulatory gates they will have to pass through along the way. First the Forest Service has to hold more meetings. It’s all uphill for an economic development project that should be gliding to the finish line.
It’s unclear at this point whether a less-extensive environmental assessment worksheet will be required or a full-fledged environmental impact statement. Several alternatives will be developed as part of the review, Reichenbach said.
Federal officials will at some point hold “scoping” meetings to determine what issues should be covered by the environmental review, with more public meetings after a draft plan is developed.
Mountains of meetings for a project that has no discernible opposition and on paper looks virtually identical to others already approved on forest service land elsewhere.
The company says the “proposed expansion and application for a special use permit is consistent with the Forest Service mission for this land and is similar to permits issued to other ski areas across the nation” that operate on National Forest lands.
Sounds like a good place for the new administration to demonstrate it’s serious about regulatory reform on a practical level.