WEST DOVER — Pond remediation has seen silt run-off clouding water in the Deerfield River and Cold Brook.
"We're hoping by Christmas, the discolored water is going to be something of the past," said Peak Resorts Project Manager Brendan Ryan.
As part of the state's Act 250 permitting process which addresses environmental concerns, Mount Snow was asked if it would be willing to take material it would be excavating for the West Lake project and put it into East Pond. Ryan expects East Pond to be filled in by Wednesday, Dec. 23.
The $30 million West Lake project will create a 120 million gallon pond, which is expected to enhance snowmaking operations. Funding was made possible through the EB-5 program, a federal investment visa program run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
East Pond is located below a hill where West Lake is being constructed. It was excavated for gravel back in the 1980s.
At a pre-construction hearing, Mount Snow Director of Mountain Operations Dave Moulton said he told Agency of Natural Resources representatives his crew would not be washing boulders taken from the site as they had only planned to take measures to keep the rocks from traveling. Although some issues were to be expected, the idea was that the long-term filling of East Pond would be better for the fish, environment and fighting against future flood events.
Nine major permits were obtained for West Lake construction, including an East Pond enhancement component, Ryan said.
"One of the things we tried to do was mitigate or reduce downstream filth. But Cold Brook jumped the bank and went through East Pond," said Moulton, noting they were able to bypass "a very small secondary tributary."
Residents and property owners then started noticing the discolored water.
Officials at Mount Snow say the particle size of the fine clay material getting into the river is small. Attempting to filter it out could be compared to sifting dye out of water, which is very difficult. To pump the pond dry, large equipment would be needed while keeping up with the water coming up from the ground and soil would be next to impossible.
According to Ryan, approximately 80,000 out of 100,000 to 150,000 yards of cut material from West Lake will end up in East Pond to remediate the floodplain.
"We are not stream biologists or ecologists but the guidance given from all the experts at the state level is that this is a short-term impact for a long-term gain and improved long-term stream quality with respect to temperature, nutrient supply and added value of floodplain storage," said Ryan. "The state folks told us it's not too severe. It hasn't looked great in the river."
Ryan said it saddens him that the first question people ask about is the discolored water and not Mount Snow trying to alleviate water dependency on Snow Lake, another body of water used for snowmaking.
Construction of West Lake is expected to be completed within a year. Ryan said the dam has been built with 20,000-25,000 yards of fill still to come out.
"We will need some wet weather next year to fill the pond for the first time. We're very much hoping to have it online for next winter," he said. "We are right on schedule."
Mount Snow has replaced 9,700 feet of four-inch piping in Dover from the new West Lake pump house to a lower section of Carinthia, a face featuring terrain parks. Next year, the plan is to replace 8,500 feet of piping to the Dover-Wilmington line.
Altogether, the resort replaced approximately 50,000 feet of snowmaking piping. Ryan said that move has had "a massive impact" for this season.
"It's 100 percent guaranteed we would not be skiing off the top of Mount Snow if not for these improvements," he said.