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Over Two Dozen Groups Question Water Projects in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Today, Washington Wild was one of 25 local businesses, recreation and conservation groups who signed a comment letter to the Bureau of Reclamation for a water project taking place within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Groups expressed concern that the proposed project requires more substantive review and should be considered in the same analysis as several other related water projects proposed by the Icicle Creek Working Group (IWG).  

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Shipley

The IWG has proposed several construction projects in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to increase stream flows by expanding easements in the area. IWG’s “Icicle Strategy” claims it will evaluate all the major alternative ways of increasing stream flows in the de-watered stretch of Icicle Creek. However, the Snow Lake project of a proposed 60% increase in valve size at Snow Lake, a topic that fits squarely within IWG’s descriptions of the scope of its mission, is not included.  The fact that the Bureau of Reclamation is pursuing the 60% increase outside of the IWG process raises questions about the level of environmental review required and trying to avoid full transparency around this project. 

Increasing the valve size and discharge rate from Snow Lake by 60% allows a significant increase in the volume of water that could be released down Snow Creek in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This could potentially impact the biology of that wilderness creek and the plants and animals that live in it and along it. It also increases the chances that Snow Lake would not refill in the winter.  

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is one of the most popular National Forest wilderness areas in the country. Furthermore, the Enchantment Lakes Basin and surrounding area is one of the most treasured areas in the Alpine Lakes, renowned for its rugged beauty, enchanting lakes, and breadth of recreational opportunities. This is an area where management decisions require the utmost scrutiny and adherence to sustaining wilderness values.