Washington, DC — The U.S. Forest Service is breaking environmental protection rules and endangering public health in approving a major expansion of a lakeside resort, according to a formal appeal filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The resort sits on Fremont Lake which provides unfiltered drinking water for the city of Pinedale, in western Wyoming.
The Bridger Teton National Forest has green-lighted this large-scale expansion of an old lake resort by deciding that the project has no significant environmental impact meriting further study or public input. This finding comes despite a warning by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the project “will increase the likelihood of contamination, and generally degrade the microbiological and chemical quality of water in Fremont Lake.”
Pushed by a former district ranger, the resort project involves construction of a pavilion and 25-unit lodge, a marina with 39 boat slips, 10 duplex cabins, a restaurant expansion, access roads and parking lots.
Year-round occupancy of the resort complex will rise to more than 200 people. The only proposed water treatment is an expanded septic system.
“For the Forest Service to say that building a new resort complex on a pristine lake used for municipal drinking water has no potential environmental impacts worth studying insults the intelligence,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal. “How would you like to add diesel fuel, motor oil and hundreds more people swimming in the water coming directly to your tap?”
Joining PEER in filing the appeal of the finding of no significant environmental impact is Bill Worf, the retired Forest Supervisor of the Bridger National Forest, who, during his tenure, tried to have the resort closed entirely, as well as removing a number of private cabins ringing the lake. “Forest Service Supervisor Hamilton is betting that 11 private water-front homes, a yacht club and an unneeded year-long resort will not damage Pinedale's water. But, if wrong, the citizens of Pinedale must pick up the $14,000,000 tab!” commented Mr. Worf.
Also joining the PEER appeal, as private citizens and long time residents of the area, are Dr. Thomas Johnston, the Sublette County Health Officer, and local attorney Steve Mackey.
The appeal challenges the no significant impact ruling by Bridger Teton Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton and is submitted to the Forest Service Intermountain Regional Office. If the Regional Office rejects the appeal, the next step would be a federal lawsuit for violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.