A federal judge says Washington state’s largest ski resort ignored responsibilities to complete pollution-control work under 2013 order.
Crystal Mountain ski resort has missed court-ordered deadlines on work to control stormwater runoff and must get the job done by Oct. 31, a federal judge has ruled.
If Crystal Mountain fails to meet the new deadline, the ski resort — the largest in the state — will be in contempt of court and will face daily fines, according to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik.
In his 15-page ruling dated May 29, Lasnik wrote that Crystal Mountain “had knowingly and intentionally ignored its responsibilities” under an earlier consent decree to settle a lawsuit brought by conservationists. That agreement called for the work to be largely done by Oct. 31, 2013.
This is the latest decision in a long-running legal battle waged by conservationists seeking to reduce the ski resort’s impact on nearby Silver Creek, a drainage that supports salmon.
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“I have been a skier at Crystal since I was a child, and this comes from a real concern of a place we all love,” said Darcy Thompson, a Seattle woman who is a spokesperson for Crystal Conservation Coalition.
The coalition’s lawsuit was filed in 2006 alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act by the ski resort, which is located southeast of Seattle within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Since 2006, Crystal Mountain has built sewage-water-treatment facilities, but the litigation continued over controlling runoff from parking lots and other hard surfaces into the creek.
A consent decree in 2013 called for the stormwater runoff work to get done that year.
In a brief filed in court on May 10, a defense attorney asked the court to declare the ski resort in compliance with the agreement, noting that Crystal has designed and installed some stormwater facilities, and more work — overseen and regulated by the U.S. Forest Service — is planned.
“All evidence supports that water quality in Silver Creek is being protected,” wrote Shawn Rediger, the defense attorney, in her brief.
But the judge found that Crystal failed to meet earlier deadlines for improvements, such as swales — low spots that help to slow and filter runoff and remove pollutants flushed by the water from parking lots.
Some parking lots now have the swales in place, but four lots still need to have the work completed, according to Thompson.
The judge also noted a lack of progress on improving riparian sites in an area where tennis courts had been built. The courts are no longer used for tennis but are still paved. Lasnik found that the work has not been done despite the earlier consent decree, which called for the pavement to be removed in the summer of 2013 as part of the restoration effort.
“We are now well beyond any reasonable timeline for restoring those riparian areas,” Lasnik wrote.
In his decision, Lasnik wrote that he would be “more active in this litigation going forward” and asked for quarterly updates to be filed with the court.