New ski resort goes big

by Jamie McEvoy

Construction has begun 90 miles north of Boise on the first new ski resort in North America in two decades (HCN, 12/20/99: An upscale development divides a town). Developer WestRock Resort envisions a year-round operation with a 3,600-acre ski hill, 2,000 luxury housing and hotel units, and an 18-hole golf course near tiny Donnelly, which today has a population of roughly 140. David Scott, a WestRock vice president, says the new resort will employ 1,400 people within 15 years and create another 1,400 jobs in support services.


Environmental and citizens' groups in Valley County, population 8,000, have been fighting the development for three years. They're concerned about their community and landscape being transformed, and about impacts to 20-mile-long Lake Cascade. Tonya Dombrowski, a state water-quality specialist, says if the development is not managed properly, it could increase erosion, runoff and nutrient loading in the lake.


But WestRock has gained support from the state land board, which OK'd a 10-year lease on 2,124 acres of state land, and the Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit to fill in wetlands.


"A 3,000-acre resort with 5,000 people shouldn't be exempted from the Clean Water Act," says Charles Ray of Citizens for Valley County, a group that challenged the Corps permit with a lawsuit. A district judge dismissed the case, but the group is appealing in federal court. © High Country News