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State orders Jay Peak construction to stop

Stream pollution cited at ski resort

JAY, Vt. -- The state has issued a stop-work order to Jay Peak Resort after determining that a construction project was polluting streams draining into the troubled Missisquoi River.

But an environmental group contends the state should have acted sooner and should not have extended the ski area's construction permit into a rainy fall season.

''It's a river of mud," Kim Kendall, staff scientist with the Vermont Natural Resources Council, said of the Jay Branch of the Missisquoi.

Sediment runoff can damage fish and insect habitat and the overall ecology of streams. It can also cause phosphorus buildup, a big problem in Lake Champlain's Missisquoi Bay, into which the river of the same name flows.

Environmentalists contend, and the state agrees, that temporary channels cut by erosion have allowed sediment to flow into the Jay Branch.

''The Department is revoking the authority for any further golf course construction," read a letter from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to Jay Peak. It also ordered the resort to take steps to lessen the runoff.

Workers at Jay Peak have been using mulch, grass seed, and construction filter cloth in an effort to slow runoff.

''When you have big, heavy rain events, you will sometimes have issues with your planning," said William Stenger, president of Jay Peak. ''We have had some things that we built into our system here fail."

The resort prepared the site for rain as best it could, Stenger said, and kept the state informed of developments.

State officials knew of problems on the site since the summer, they said.

''This is one we have been aware of all along. It has been a little frustrating," said Jeffery Wennberg, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The resort's planned $7 million golf course and $15 million worth of condominiums and townhouses will increase the number of people who can stay at Jay Peak and allow it to operate year-round, Stenger said.

Kendall said the state should be more aggressive in stepping in when environmental damage occurs.

''It's a concern I have across the state. The state of Vermont is not monitoring these construction sites carefully to make sure the erosion control plans are monitored," Kendall said. ''My impression is the state tries to work with developers and it is not necessarily effective."

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