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Garn: Gondola won't harm watershed

Published May 12, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Looking back on my decades of public service, the best solution to problems came about when the scale of the problems was properly depicted and the participants did their best to deal with facts and to eliminate myths that can be created in public debate.

I encourage both The Salt Lake Tribune and interested readers to review SkiLink on its merits.

Utahns need to know exactly what SkiLink is and what its potential is for the state of Utah, our environment and our ski industry.

As a former water commissioner, protecting the Salt Lake Valley's water supply is near and dear to my heart. I would not endorse any proposal that I believed threatened or compromised its quality or quantity. I have taken a hard look at available water studies and find SkiLink does not threaten our precious water supply.

A recent study by Cirrus Ltd. of Logan demonstrates the water supply in Big Cottonwood Canyon has improved since 1939, even with resort expansions at Brighton, Solitude and Silver Fork over the many years. And SkiLink has no connection to resort expansion.

For SkiLink to be built, it must receive the approval of local government to ensure that valuable watershed is protected. As a former mayor of Salt Lake City, I encourage the city's water utility to review the proposal scientifically.

My experience in local government leads me to be extremely sensitive to balancing the preservation of our pristine ski country with responsible economic development. Many have claimed connecting the Canyons and Solitude resorts would open thousands of acres to commercial skiing and resort development.

But there is absolutely no resort expansion considered in the SkiLink proposal — none at all. Additionally, there would be no roads added for the SkiLink gondola. And the actual inserted poles and infrastructure needed to support the gondola, all of which would be accomplished aerially, is less than one acre. As a final public check and approval, SkiLink would have to undergo a thorough local process which would include approval by the U.S. Forest Service, Salt Lake and Summit counties and Salt Lake City.

The concept of interconnecting ski resorts in the Wasatch canyons has been studied for more than 30 years. It offers significant economic benefits and a way to take cars off our congested canyon roads. This project should be judged on its merits, without exaggerated and false claims clouding the discussion.

The 20 individuals who comprise the Lift Utah coalition and its support of SkiLink have a long history of dedicated community service, as well as business success. They serve on the boards of some of our most cherished nonprofits, community centers, health clinics, hospitals and services for the poor. They are lifelong Utahns, dedicated to service, who have a vision of responsible development. I am delighted to be one of the co-chairs of Lift Utah.

I encourage all concerned — our Utah public — to review SkiLink's facts, which I believe will lead to positive support of this important initiative.

E.J. "Jake" Garn is a retired U.S. senator, a former mayor of Salt Lake City and co-chairman of Utah Lift, which advocates for the SkiLink gondola. He lives in Salt Lake City.