6 Sierra ski resorts join erosion control program | TahoeDailyTribune.com

6 Sierra ski resorts join erosion control program

Heavenly Mountain Resort will join five Sierra ski areas that have signed on to study soil erosion from runs and other disturbed areas within the boundaries of their respective mountains.

While erosion control has been widely studied on farms and timber areas, there has been little research done in high Alpine areas where different types of vegetation, soil, and weather patterns come into play. Ski resorts currently invest in a range of practices, but many don’t know which of their efforts are producing the best results for controlling erosion at the source, according to the Truckee-based Sierra Business Council.

So the Sierra Business Council, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Integrated Environmental Restoration Service have created the California Resort Environmental Cooperative.

The resorts will use grants from the water quality control board to install test plots, perform rainfall simulations, and experiment with different types of compost and native seed mixes over the next two summers. The monitoring, data collection, and analysis will run through 2008.

“Heavenly is pleased to be a contributing member of CAREC. We look forward to sharing ideas and finding new solutions to erosion and sedimentation issues through the groups work,” said Andrew Strain, Heavenly’s vice president of government planning and affairs. “Since the early 1990s, Heavenly has been a leading practitioner in the field of erosion control and high-altitude re-vegetation in Alpine landscapes. The earlier vision and commitments of individuals here and at the USDA Forest Service have produced a successful partnership that we are anxious to build on.”

The first phase of the erosion study project, completed in early 2005, resulted in the publication of The Sediment Source Control Handbook. The second phase is meant to build on the data and information collected during that first phase of experimentation.

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“The handbook is not a regulatory document, it is a tool box of solutions that are applicable to certain situations that will hopefully allow resort managers to implement successful efforts rather than experiments,” said Harold Singer, executive officer at the Lahontan Water Board.

The mountain managers of all the resorts involved said they are looking for cost-effective ways to control erosion using methods that are proven to work.

For ski resorts that have struggled for years with the proper methods to control heavy sediment runoff, the program provides a way to investigate alternative methods to save money, improve water quality and ecosystems all at once, according to the business council.

“We’re pleased that the Sierra Business Council is facilitating cooperation among ski areas and specialists to further enhance our environmental improvement programs,” said Mike Livak, vice-president of Squaw Valley Ski Corporation. “Squaw Valley looks forward to sharing what we’ve learned, to acquiring new information, and to learning from others.”

For more information on the California Alpine Resort Environmental Cooperative or to view the program handbook, visit http://www.sbcouncil.org or call (530) 582-4800.