In the past couple of weeks, I’ve received more than a few requests to look into a Moonridge-area property development not far from Parker Dam, and some accusations that the contractors grading the hillside are allowing rocks and large boulders to land in the Colorado River.
So, the other day I drove up there to see for myself and get some photographs from the other side of the river. The property is pretty big, and is clearly being graded for a large development. It’s a beautiful area and I can see why it would be some prime real estate. As it turns out, the development is being called Ski Alley Resort, incorporated in the state of Arizona back in 2013.
As I was driving away – BOOM! – a huge explosion went off, sending rocks flying in a controlled detonation of the hillside. These guys aren’t wasting any time.
And yes, there are boulders in the water; one in particular that looks like a little island near the shoreline. So what are the laws on this stuff, and who is responsible?
First, the law: Typically, anything going below the ordinary high water mark (OHWM) – in other words, anything that intrudes into the river beyond the shoreline, like docks, swimming platforms, fishing piers, boat lifts, walls, etc. – requires a federal permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and those permits are issued under pretty strict conditions. So, the developer would definitely have required a permit to put any boulders in the Colorado River.
This means that the real question is: Did the developer have a permit, and do the authorities know what’s going on?
Parker Live spoke with Bill Miller at the United States Army Corps of Engineers, who is the regulator in charge of the river on the Parker Strip.
“The boulders that had fallen into the river did not have a permit. The contractor did not have a permit to allow for such a thing,” Miller said. “However, when those boulders did fall in, it was accidental on their part and they did contact the Corps to request authorization to be able to retrieve the boulders.”
It turns out that this is an ongoing process involving the Corps of Engineers and Ski Alley, where the groups are working together to resolve any issues. The Corps takes the preservation of the Parker Strip pretty seriously, and it seems Ski Alley does too. But they’re not the only ones involved:
“We did work with them to issue them a permit [to remove the boulders], but during that process we discovered that there is other work that had been done on the shoreline of the Colorado River that should also have had a permit from the Corps,” Miller said. “So we’re now working with the Ski Alley personnel to identify exactly how much of an impact was associated with that work and to get them in compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The process is ongoing and no additional permits have been issued at this time.”
So, for those worrying about developers running amok, acting outside the law, it seems the Corps is involved and a new development is coming that cares about the area it’s coming to.
And for anyone who would run amok? There are some pretty gnarly penalties, up to a maximum criminal fine of $50,000 per day and imprisonment for up to three years. Ouch.
UPDATE 5/6/2016: Looks like a solution has been found.