Congress cleared obstacles Thursday that could have slowed construction of the Trappers Loop Road. Snowbasin ski resort officials say it needs the road for the 2002 Olympics.
Both houses gave final passage to a huge, compromise supplemental appropriations bill, which includes definition changes sought by Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah. The changes are designed to avoid delays from possible environmental-group appeals of that road project.Mary Jane Collipriest, Bennett's press secretary, said the senator's action clarifies what he says was always Congress's intent to bypass such delays through a law it passed two years ago.
That earlier law ordered a land trade that had been sought for a decade between Snowbasin and the U.S. Forest Service.
The resort and the forest service both sought congressional help when they said expected appeals by environmental groups regarding various stages of environmental impact decisions would otherwise delay construction of lifts and lodges until after the Olympics.
Collipriest said the earlier legislation considered studies about development up to that point as sufficient. It exempted resulting plans for the Olympics from further environmental reviews that could have brought more appeals and delays.
But she said the law was written so that such exemptions applied only to actions by the Department of Agriculture, the parent agency of the Forest Service.
Other agencies, such as federal and state departments of transportation, may be involved in planning, funding and constructing the Trapper's Loop Road.
Bennett's wording added to the appropriations report "will enable state and local entities cooperating with the Forest Service to participate in the design and construction of Trappers Loop Road," and still avoid delays.
Environmental groups have complained that any time normal processes slow down Snowbasin or other Olympics projects, political influence is brought to bear to circumvent rules that everyone else must follow.
Snowbasin, which will host the downhill and Super G skiing events for the 2002 Games, has said the new road is needed to give a second access route to the resort and help handle Olympics crowds.
It has also said it hopes the road will be completed quickly to allow tests of how well access works before the Olympics actually arrive.