Conservationists recently won a round in their fight to curb expansion at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. In April, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration violated federal law when it chose not to conduct a full-scale environmental impact statement on the proposal to expand Mammoth-Yosemite Airport on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The project would lengthen and widen the
airport’s runways to accommodate commercial jets, but
environmentalists say the impacts could reach beyond the immediate
expansion area. “The overarching concern is that the project
contemplates a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting a
very environmentally sensitive and geographically remote
area,” says Earthjustice attorney Susan Britton. “The
FAA didn’t adequately analyze the effects that increase could
Noise pollution from low-flying jets could
harm wildlife and tourism in nearby Yosemite National Park and the
John Muir and Ansel Adams wilderness areas, Britton says.
The arrival of commercial airline service to the airport, which now
serves only charter flights, is critical to the plan to turn
Mammoth Mountain into a destination ski resort. Intrawest —
North America’s largest ski-resort company, which also owns
Colorado’s Copper Mountain and Winter Park, as well as
Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb — bought the resort in
1996. In 2000, American Airlines inked a deal with the ski area to
provide jet service to the airport.
we’re able to bring American Airlines in here, we need to
have the airport expansion approved and completed,” says
Joani Lynch, communications director for Mammoth Mountain.
“In the meantime, we’re pretty much on
The FAA would not comment on whether it will
appeal the decision.