The state Olympic Regional Development Authority seeks a permit to withdraw up to 235,000 gallons of water per day from wells and a brook at Mount Van Hoevenberg to primarily bolster snowmaking at the bobsled and cross country skiing venue.
The permit application comes after the state funded a series of major upgrades at the site, including a new visitors lodge, improved trails and modernized snowmaking equipment. A new 3.5 million gallon reservoir can hold the water needed to make snow at the site. The upgrades also aim to attract international competitions to the venue like the World University Games slated for this winter.
It seems clear that ORDA has been operating the facility out of compliance with a 2012 law that requires any water withdrawal system with a capacity of at least 100,000 gallons per day obtain a permit. ORDA acknowledged they have withdrawn more than 100,000 gallons at least in recent years. But it’s not clear for how long the site’s daily withdrawal capacity has topped 100,000 gallons.
While reporting on the Mount Van Hoevenberg permit, I pulled the latest annual water withdrawal reports from Whiteface, where a major snowmaking operation keeps trails in use. In some recent years, the ski center withdrew over 500 million gallons from the Ausable River to make snow during the ski season. (The water, of course, ultimately melts and returns to the watershed.) Water use in snowmaking is an interesting topic that I will need to look more into and one that I can imagine becoming more important if climate change continues to eat away at winter recreation seasons.
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Photo: Skiers at the Mount Van Hoevenberg complex. Explorer file photo by Mike Lynch
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.