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Salt Lake City mayor seeks changes to 'SkiLink' bill

Published February 24, 2012 3:55 pm

Canyons • SLC mayor wants environmental review of gondola plan.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Washington • Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says he's not sure he can kill legislation in the U.S. House that would mandate the Forest Service sell land to create a gondola system between two Wasatch Mountain ski resorts.

But Becker said he's working on changing the bill and urging opposition if its sponsor, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, continues his efforts to pass the measure as is.

"I'm not holding out any optimism that Bishop will change course on his bill," Becker said Friday during a trip to Washington.

Salt Lake City's mayor this week handed Bishop's staff proposed changes to the bill for a Canyons-Solitude connect, called SkiLink. Becker hopes he can at least "change the dialogue" and curtail what he says is a "detrimental" move that could harm the city's watershed and upend a grass-roots process on transportation solutions for the canyons.

"This is the backyard to over a million citizens," Becker said.

Becker's proposed rewrite of the congressional legislation would allow use of the Forest Service land in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest for some type of transportation connection but doesn't presuppose what the ultimate technology would be.

His suggestion also includes mandating a full environmental review and that the final project comply with local and regional zoning laws.

For now, Bishop's bill would require the Forest Service to sell 30.3 acres of public land to a subsidiary of Talisker Mountain Inc., a Canadian company that owns the Canyons Resort near Park City. That company is proposing an eight-person gondola that would stretch two miles to the Solitude ski resort.

Bishop spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said the congressman had not seen Becker's proposed tweaks but added that the office is open to "constructive ideas and even some changes" as long as they don't undermine the bill's intent.

"This measure has been and will continue to be a collaborative effort," Subbotin said. "We look forward to working with the mayor and other local stakeholders to ensure that this project is a success for the state."

Bishop, chairman of a Natural Resources subcommittee over public lands, held a hearing on the legislation in December. He said his bill also calls for environmental studies.

tburr@sltrib.com