Duluth’s Planning Commission voted against proceeding with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in regards to a proposed development of a golf course and hotel/lodge on the scenic Spirit Mountain. The vote was rather unexpected as large numbers of citizens and environmental professionals spoke out against the project at the City’s hearings.
A number of concerns were expressed at the hearings. Many felt the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) was improperly completed and laden with errors, including a highly inaccurate map of the area and development, little discussion of the Native American historical value of the ridge, and only brief statements about the potential impacts of the development on Stewart Creek. Stewart Creek is one of the few remaining trout streams in the area, and it runs directly through the proposed course. A representative from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used on the turf would destroy the current conditions in the stream that allow trout to thrive. Stewart Creek feeds into the Saint Louis River, which is the largest tributary of Lake Superior.
Additional problems arose during the hearings when a Planning Commission member referred to environmentalists as “kooks” and told the Tree Commission that the loss of virgin forest, due to the development, was “none of your damn business”. The West Skyline Planning and Preservation Alliance (wsppa.tsx.org) is bringing the case to the courts based on the fact that the Planning Commission was a collection of citizens who had little or no understanding of what an EAW and EIS are and therefore could not legally serve as the deciding Regulatory Government Unit.