After that, it would face yet additional scrutiny by the Forest Service per the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The public would be allowed to weigh in during the NEPA process and the feds could require completion of an environmental impact statement to gauge the possible impact of the expansion.
Even so, it’s not clear exactly what stage of review Nordic Valley’s plans are in, and company reps did not respond to queries seeking comment. Similarly, with the U.S. Forest Service impacted by the two-week old partial federal government shutdown, officials from the agency weren’t immediately available for comment.
Before the shutdown started, however, Sean Harwood, who manages the Ogden Ranger District for the Forest Service, said the agency, presumably under normal circumstances, would have 90 days to conduct an initial review of the plans. The Forest Service special uses handbook, he added, would guide the process, and a review of that handbook sheds some light on the process.
Nordic Valley unveiled ambitious plans last June to expand the ski resort, building a gondola from Eden westward over the mountain near Lewis Peak to North Ogden. The proposal, unveiled in more detailed form late last November, also calls for the addition of numerous ski runs and lifts on both the Eden and North Ogden sides of the range, many on Forest Service land. The plans have generated questions from many in the North Ogden and Eden areas, worried about the impact to the pristine area and skeptical of its viability.
Nordic Valley, one of three Weber County ski resorts, proposes expanding onto broad swaths of Forest Service land, and per the agency’s initial screening, the plans must meet nine general requirements, notably complying with agency policies and regulations. Plans can’t involve gambling, paramilitary training or disposal of garbage, among other things. Nordic Valley, in its plan, said it factored Forest Service requirements in putting the proposal together.
“Partial acceptance gives the proponent the opportunity to revise the plan to address Forest Service concerns,” Harwood said in an email.
Forest Service guidelines also contemplate a second-level review, though it’s not clear if Nordic Valley’s plans would be subject to such scrutiny. Per a second review, project applicants must show “financial and technical capability” to complete their plans and show that the plan is economically feasible. “Require applicants to furnish a business plan, including an income and expense worksheet, demonstrating the viability of the proposed use,” the guidelines read.
Per that second review, pertinent applicants must also demonstrate that the proposed use will meet “the present and future needs of the American people,” factoring its impact on recreational opportunities, timber, the local watershed, wildlife, natural scenery and more.
Ultimate acceptance, meanwhile, wouldn’t automatically trigger the NEPA process, Harwood continued. Rather, Forest Service officials would make that determination.
According to Nordic Valley’s proposal, the NEPA process, with numerous steps, would serve to determine if the plans required any special permits. Moreover, the Forest Service would determine if an environmental impact study were required and the public would be invited to formally sound off.
Whether any sort of local approval would be required for any elements of the proposal is not clear. North Ogden Mayor Brent Chugg says Nordic Valley hasn’t submitted any formal plans or requests to city officials.
The NEPA process could take “several years,” according to the Nordic Valley plan. James Coleman, managing parter of Mountain Capital Partners, which operates Nordic Valley, has said he’d like to start the project in mid-2020.