WASILLA -- The Mat-Su Borough's proposed ski area at Hatcher Pass is one step closer to construction.
A draft federal environmental impact statement assessing the impact of adding roads, trails, parking lots and the things that accompany a ski area was released this month. The impact statement points out things the borough must do to minimize damage to the Hatcher Pass environment, but it essentially gives the project a green light.
"It's pretty straightforward," said Ron Swanson, the borough's contractor managing the Hatcher Pass project.
The draft impact statement, which Swanson expects will be complete this fall, is a task the borough must finish before it can proceed with ski-area development.
The impact statement and work the borough plans to do next year will be paid for with $5.5 million in Federal Transit Authority funds. Swanson estimated the impact statement, done by Anchorage engineering firm Dowl HKM, will cost less than $2 million, leaving the borough with about $3.5 million for construction.
That money will likely be spent on the nordic skiing facility planned on the south side of Hatcher Pass off Edgerton Parks Road. Swanson said the borough hopes to build a road, a parking area and a bus shelter with restrooms there. If the impact statement is approved this fall, Swanson said, work could begin next spring.
There are several steps to take before the impact statement will be complete, however. Public comments are being taken through July 30 on the draft, posted at www.dowlhkm.com/projects/hatcherpass/index.html.
A public meeting about the draft statement is planned for 5:30 p.m. June 23 at Colony Middle School. An open house will be held for the first hour, then a project briefing from 6:30 to 7 p.m. and public testimony, Swanson said.
After the public meeting and comment period, the draft statement will be revised and the Federal Transit Authority will issue a record of decision. The agency and the Mat-Su Borough must sign off on the decision.
The impact statement requires the borough to do things like use mufflers on construction equipment to minimize noise and vibration during construction, and to use downward-directed lights, light sensors and timing circuits to preserve night-sky views in the area.
It also requires the borough to monitor water quality of the Little Susitna River and collect water quantity data in the river, a reflection of concerns about whether snow making at the planned downhill skiing facility will draw too much water from the river and compromise fish habitat.
Swanson said the borough plans to begin water-quantity monitoring soon, although it might be years before it has enough money to build a downhill ski area.
In 2008 Swanson estimated building the full first phase would cost $24.8 million. The borough is continuing to seek federal, state and grant funding for the Hatcher Pass project.
Swanson said he is revising cost estimates on the project and might break into multiple phases the borough's current phase-one plan: to build two ski lifts, a day lodge, snow making and night lighting at the downhill area and 10 kilometers of family trails, 10 kilometers of competitive trails, a few other trails, an access road, two parking lots, a stadium and a day lodge at the nordic area.
Find Rindi White online at adn.com/contact/rwhite or call 352-6709.