Pajarito Pipeline work may start in September

-A A +A
By Tris DeRoma

Even though it’s August already, representatives of a ski resort that recently took over the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area from the Pajarito Ski Club are insisting they will be ready for skiers by late November.
At a recent meeting at the Trinity On the Hill Episcopal Church, representatives of Sipapu, Los Alamos County and the U.S. Forest Service revealed the key to their confidence to the members of the Pajarito Ski Club.
Their solution is a temporary, but fast, solution to get water from the county reservoir to Pajarito Ski Area for the purpose of making artificial snow.
“We have neighbors in Los Alamos that have water and we have neighbors at the ski area that need the water, the National Forest is in between, so we’re working with them to help get the water from over here to over there for them to use,” said Sandy Erlocher, to the audience at the meeting. Erlocher is a U.S. Forest ranger that manages the Española National Forest District.
The plan is to connect a temporary, above-ground, four inches in diameter pipeline between the reservoir and the ski area and equip it with temporary pumping stations. Power will come from electrical cables already in the area. The project is expected to be completed by mid-October.
According to Sipapu liaison Scott Price, the actual timeline for the project is unclear, though they expect to get started in September. All they are waiting for is the results of a public opinion poll conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, a poll that’s expected to be positive.
“We are still awaiting a decision memo from the U.S. Forest Service,” he said, adding that the comment period will be ending next week. “We have to get that decision memo before we can do anything,” he said.
Price also said at the meeting that the water, once it gets to the pond at the top of the mountain, will also be serving as a handy resource for fire fighting.
“We need water in the pond at the top of the mountain for snowmaking,” he said to the audience. “We also need water in there for firefighting, in the event we have a dry winter.”
At the meeting, residents were mostly concerned with what sort of environmental impact the pipeline is going to have on the area.
Though residents and ski club members learned that the environmental impact of the temporary pipeline would be minimal, they also wanted to know what the permanent water plan was going to be like.
Price said Sipapu has many options it’s exploring, including permanent wells, expansion of the reservoir’s weir system or a perhaps a permanent pipeline from the reservoir.
“These are things we’re currently exploring and trying to find out more about,” he said.
Other residents wanted to know if the temporary plan was 100 percent successful, what would the snow coverage look like. According to Tom Long, the manager of the ski resort that was also at the meeting, if everything went according to plan, they would have enough water to supply three ski runs, plus some smaller areas. That would be about 40 acres.
While most of the audience seemed to be in favor of the plan, there were a few dissenters, especially when it came to the more permanent, long-range plan of a permanent pipeline or well system.
“I think the (temporary) pipeline in the long run will have a negligible impact on where it’s put,” said audience member John Tauxe. “The overarching plan for using water resources for a ski area in a dry, southwest area is a bad idea. It hurts the sustainability of Los Alamos County. It runs counter to the principles of sustainability. It sells the future of Los Alamos County for today’s recreation needs.”
Another resident, however, Bernard Wood, said he sees no problem with the plan.
“I have no objections at all,” he said. “We have water here, we’d like it over there.
“It’s county water, staying within the county. I see no losers here.”