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Environment

DEQ Seeks Public Comment on Draft Environmental Assessment for Alpine Coaster Water Supply

The Flathead Lake Alpine Coaster owners submitted a proposal to turn an existing well into a public water supply

By Micah Drew
Flathead Lake as viewed from Lakeside Community Park in Lakeside on April 14, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has released a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for an application to create a public water supply at the site of a popular Lakeside attraction. The owners of the Flathead Lake Alpine Coaster applied to install a pressure tank and mechanical equipment on site to turn an existing well into a public water supply.

Wilderness Land Holdings, LLC, owned by Jessica and Torsten Wedel of Stevensville, began construction on the alpine coaster north of Lakeside along U.S. Highway 93 in 2022 and held a grand opening last summer. An alpine coaster is a small toboggan-style gravity-powered roller coaster on elevated tracks that is a popular summertime attraction at many mountain resorts. The Lakeside coaster wraps around 4,000 feet of wooded hillside above Flathead Lake, with riders cruising up to 27 miles per hour on the descent.

The Wedels have stated that they expect the coaster to attract between 200 and 300 visitors per day during the peak season. Montana law requires all facilities that provide water to more than 25 people for 60 or more days each year to submit public water supply plans for review and approval by state agencies and the water supply must be regularly sampled to decrease public health and safety risks.

The DEQ’s EA focuses strictly on the public water supply system, not on impacts from the construction of the alpine coaster, traffic, water rights or general land use. Because there is already a 500-foot-deep well on the property, there will be no physical impacts related to well drilling, the analysis states, and the department is only required to determine whether the plans meet public water design standards.

According to the draft EA, DEQ found that the proposed public water supply project posed no significant impacts to the physical environment, including: water quality, quantity or distribution; human health and safety; fragile environmental resources; endangered species; geology and soil quality, stability and moisture; air quality; historical or archaeological sites; or on-site aesthetics. The draft EA did note that “there may be a slight economic benefit to the local tax base by improving this property with a public water supply system.”

Although two similar public water supply projects have been approved in the Lakeside area in the past year, the DEQ does not anticipate any cumulative impacts.

While department staff recommend the application go forward, there is a 30-day public comment period before final approval.

To read the draft EA or submit comments, visit https://deq.mt.gov/News/publiccomment-folder/Flathead-Lake-Alpine-Coaster-01-29-2024.

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