Posing Financial Risk to Local Residents Believing promises of econonic development and tax windfalls, Mineral County Commisioners (in Creede) nontheless approved the development in Octover 2004. In so doing, they refused to require an independent fiscal impact analysis- standard procedure with such developments- to ensure their own taxpayers would not be harmed. For instance, should the volunteer property owners association (POA) and the non-profit water company responsible for the numerous (and expensive) services normally provided by local governments fail, financial liability would likely fall backupon Mineral County residents. Meanwhile, Archulets and Rio Grande Counties would bear the brunt of the impacts, including affordable housing shortages; costs to taxpayers for health care, police, and courts; and water quality impacts from sewage discharges. Subsequently, Colorado Wild and the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council sued Mineral County in late 2004 to uphold the public interest.
Creating Local Traffic and Safety Problems A city larger than Alamosa just below the Continental Divide would cause huge traffic increases. The developers’ own studies show that a traffic light would be needed within just two or three years bringing major accident potential when vehicles try to stop on a blind curve in one of the snowiest spots in Colorado (see photo, above). Alternately, a highway cloverleaf or other major exit would be needed, all at over 10,300 feet. The developer is arguing against paying for the necessary road infrastructure leaving the tab for Colorado’s taxpayers.
Harming Local Businesses Skiers, employees, and locals love Wolf Creek Ski Area precisely because it is not Aspen or Vail. In 1986 McCombs was a partner in the failed Cuchara Ski Area, outside La Veta, Colorado, which today provides no economic benefit to local communities. Even were the Village successful, it would harm backcountry and downhill skiing at the ski area, and is likely to undermine existing businesses in Pagosa Springs and South Fork that rely on Wolf Creek Ski Area tourists for wintertime income. Wolf Creek Ski Area was even forced to sue to protect its own property rights and help ensure that they can continue operating.
Threatening Critical Wildlife Habitat, Watersheds, and Wetlands Nestled between the South San Juan Wilderness the wildest left in the Southern Rocky Mountains, and the Weminuche Colorado’s largest Wilderness, the habitat along Wolf Creek pass serves as a critical wildlife migration corridor. Extensive traffic growth from the development will increase roadkill, reducing the ability of lynx to cross the highway, find mates, and reproduce. Alberta Park Reservoir and its tributaries, all within or adjacent to the property, also provide some of the best habitat for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout petitioned for listing as Federally endangered.
Fostering Water Wars? Studies performed by hydrological and legal firms contracted by the ski area concluded the developer doesn’t have sufficient water rights, or actual water at the site, for this massive development. The developer or future owners unaware of the problems they bought into are therefore likely to seek water from the San Luis Valley, prompting competition for water with the Valley’s agricultural economy. Up to 93 acres of high-quality wetlands that help purify water and contribute to late season flow of the Rio Grande are likely to be filled, dried up, or otherwise impacted by the development. Spikes in residency during winter and summer are likely to result in sewage discharges, polluting Alberta Lake, Pass Creek, and the Rio Grande downstream. Should the developers’ on-site power plant proposal fail, utility and power lines would also be needed, increasing off-site impacts.