The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) published a draft permit and environmental assessment for a proposed discharge at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club associated with their Snowmaking Project to be located in Madison and Gallatin Counties, near Big Sky.  

Cross Harbor Spanish Peaks Acquisitions (CHSP), LLC, applied to DEQ for a Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MPDES) permit to discharge treated domestic wastewater as artificial snow on ski runs of the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club on Spirit Mountain, Andesite Mountain, and the Spanish Peaks base area. The source of the treated wastewater is the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District wastewater treatment facility.  

The reuse of wastewater provides environmental benefits by reducing the demand for freshwater to create snow. In its review, DEQ considered whether the wastewater reuse would contribute to nutrient pollution in the watershed. Excessive nutrients in streams can lead to algae growth and water quality issues. DEQ is currently studying excessive algae growth in parts of the Gallatin River Watershed. The applicant submitted a multi-year study that analyzed data on nutrients from the proposed snowmaking based on a pilot project. DEQ carefully reviewed this information in preparing the draft permit and proposed stringent nutrient monitoring. 

According to the applicant, snowmaking would occur primarily during the early portion of the ski season, as a base layer. During the season, natural snow would accumulate on top of and mix with the artificial snow. DEQ reviewed the application, and the draft permit proposed limitations to ensure protection of human health and the environment as well as the beneficial uses of identified nearby waterbodies. The wastewater would be treated and disinfected to standards required for wastewater reuse prior to snowmaking.  CHSP would also be required to conduct significant surface water and snowmelt monitoring during the spring snowmelt and runoff season. The monitoring must be conducted, and the results reported to DEQ every year of the permit term.  

DEQ prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) in compliance with the Montana Environmental Policy Act to analyze potential impacts of the proposal. The agency is now accepting public comment on the draft permit and EA, after which DEQ will review comments and make a final decision on permit issuance. Public comment closes June 6, 2024, and comments can be submitted electronically or by mail.


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