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You are here News Environment Man-made snow from reclaimed sewage at heart of Hopi, ski resort fight

Man-made snow from reclaimed sewage at heart of Hopi, ski resort fight

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Hope artificial snow fightFor 10 years, a coalition of Native American groups and environmental activists in this Western mountain community has tried to stop a ski resort from spraying artificial snow — made from wastewater — on land that 13 tribes consider sacred.

Until now, it’s lost every one of five major legal actions against the U.S. Forest Service, which first approved the sale of wastewater to the Arizona Snowbowl resort in 2004. Since the winter of 2012, the privately owned Snowbowl has prospered through the cold but dry winter season with the frozen flakes, manufactured by four snow-making machines on the San Francisco Peaks, 11,500 feet above sea level.

The cultural argument — as one activist put it, “What part of ‘sacred’ don’t you understand?” — has failed in the legal arena. Now the Hopi tribe is trying to stop the faux snow with arguments that could carry more weight outside Native American culture. Tribal officials are arguing that the snow is bad for the environment, and for people too.

Last month, the Arizona Supreme Court greenlit a Hopi lawsuit against Flagstaff, which so far this season has sold to Snowbowl about 134 acre-feet, or about 44 million gallons, for $77,645. The contract allows for a total of 552 acre-feet, or about 180 million gallons, to be moved through a 15-mile pipeline that Snowbowl built through the forest in 2011.

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