Waterski Subdivision Proposal Moves Forward

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead County Planning Board recommended that the county commission approve the preliminary plat and planned unit development (PUD) request for a subdivision that would include man-made waterski lakes planned for the Evergreen area.

Rosewater Subdivision is a 154-acre subdivision that would create 58 lots, broken down into 46 single-family lots and 12 townhouse lots. It would be located along Rose Crossing.

The development would also include a 27-acre artificial lake, which would be filled with water drawn from the nearby Whitefish River through an existing pump station with an established irrigation water right, according to Flathead County Planning and Zoning staff.

The lake area would be divided into two portions, and would specifically cater to water-skiers, according to developer Bill Tanner of Score Management, LLC.

Tanner spoke to the planning board on Feb. 13 during a public hearing on the preliminary plat and the PUD, saying that the lake sides would be built at such an angle that would deter wake and allow for waterskiing in a controlled environment.

The lake would be dug into the ground, and would sit on 30-millimeter liner, like the kind used in landfills, which would be covered by 18 inches of soil. The soil would come from the tonnage removed to create the depression for the lake.

The new waterway would sit about 950 feet away from the Whitefish River, which planning staff noted has raised some public concern about the river’s steep slopes slumping under the added weight of the lake – which would hold about 40 million gallons of water – or if the liner leaks.

Other concerns from neighbors include noise pollution caused by ski boats running through the water, as well as the potential harm a leak in the lake’s liner could cause to the local groundwater.

Tanner addressed some of these concerns at the Feb. 13 hearing, noting that artificial lakes are nothing new, citing specific developments in Arizona, California and a man-made lake in Helena.

“Are we reinventing the wheel here? Is this the only waterski lake in the world? Absolutely not,” Tanner said.

The liner that would be used is 30 millimeters thick, and the sheets are welded together in the factory, Tanner said. It has a 20-year warranty, and if a leak were to occur, there are businesses that specialize in finding such cracks and fixing them, he said.

The planning staff report noted that the developer had not included a monitoring plan in the preliminary plat application, but a plan to monitor for leaks was discussed at the hearing and the board amended the plan’s finding of facts to say “potential impact can be mitigated with the imposition of conditions related to long-term monitoring and establishment of an emergency contingency plan.”

Public attendees at the hearing spoke about the proposed subdivision, with seven people speaking in favor of it, noting the potential economic boost it could give the county, while 10 people spoke against it, raising concerns for river, the underlying perched aquifer, and potential negative effects on the neighborhood’s character.

The planning board modified two of the 31 conditions suggested by planning staff, including the removal of the need for the state departments, such as the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and Fish, Wildlife and Park, from approving the emergency contingency plan for the lake.

Board members recommended approval for the preliminary plat and the PUD with unanimous 6-0 votes.

The full application and preliminary plat for Rosewater Subdivision, visit www.flathead.mt.gov/planning_zoning.

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