A group that advises the Salt Lake Organizing Committee on environmental issues endorsed a policy opposing development in the mountains or canyons in the name of the Olympics.
But the policy, approved Tuesday by the SLOC Environmental Advisory Committee, isn't new. SLOC officials said it was approved in 1990 by what was then the bid committee for the Olympics.The policy states that "no new development (other than that which has already been approved) is required for Utah to host the Olympic Winter Games."
It goes on to state that bid officials must step in to "promptly inform the appropriate governmental officials, in writing," if a project is being pushed as needed for the Olympics.
Since then, though, organizers themselves have supported federal help needed for a controversial expansion project at the Snowbasin ski area near Ogden, where downhill and Super G ski races will be held during the Olympics.
The ski area is owned by Earl Holding, a member of the SLOC Board of Trustees. Holding has a multimillion-dollar contract with the organizing committee to use the ski area during the Games.
Former SLOC Chairman Frank Joklik, now the chief executive officer of the organizing committee, told Congress in 1996 that a federal land exchange sought for the expansion was crucial to holding Olympic events at Snowbasin.
And there's also SLOC backing for an effort currently underway to secure federal funding for a new access road to Snowbasin from Trapper's Loop highway, even though Holding had at one time promised to pay for the road.
So why bring up an 8-year-old policy that apparently isn't being followed? Well, the idea came from leaders of Save Our Canyons, an environmental group that opposes the Snowbasin project.
Wes Odell of Save Our Canyons attended Tuesday's meeting of the Environmental Advisory Committee, but declined to say more than the policy should be applied to all venues.
"If it was important to the whole process in 1990, it should be today," Odell said. He said he wanted to see what the SLOC Board of Trustees did with the policy before discussing it further.
A member of the Environmental Advisory Committee, John Hoagland, said the action Tuesday sends a message to organizers. And reviving the policy may make environmental groups opposed to the Snowbasin project feel better.
"It's a little bit of face-saving, maybe. It's reaffirming it's the right thing to do," Hoagland said. He said he didn't see the support of Snowbasin as a violation of the policy.
Neither does Diane Conrad, the organizing committee's environmental director. Conrad said the policy speaks "to making sure things are in compliance" with environmental laws.
That's the case at Snowbasin, she said. Conrad said she was not aware of the policy until it was brought to her attention by Odell and another leader of Save Our Canyons.
Conrad said she asked members of the Environmental Advisory Committee to approve a resolution reaffirming the policy with the approval of top SLOC officials.