Cottonwood Environmental Law Center sued Spanish Peaks Mountain Club in Big Sky, Mont. on the basis that a liner in its holding pond was torn, and it was also over irrigating its golf course with treated wastewater. The club has agreed to replace a liner in its holding pond, which is used to store treated wastewater, limit the amount of treated effluent it uses to irrigate its golf course, and to fund water-quality-improvement projects in the watershed. The club continues to deny Cottonwood’s allegations and “maintains that it has always complied with the Clean Water Act and Montana’s laws and regulations.”
Spanish Peaks Mountain Club in Big Sky, Mont. and Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and the Gallatin Wildlife Association settled a Clean Water Act lawsuit in federal district court last week, in a bid to avoid “a protracted dispute and costly legal fees,” the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. The details of the settlement were laid out in a consent order filed with the U.S. District Court in Butte Sept. 23.
Spanish Peaks has agreed to replace a liner in its holding pond, which is used to store treated wastewater, the Daily Chronicle reported. It also agreed to limit the amount of treated effluent it uses to irrigate its golf course, and to fund water quality improvement projects in the watershed.
The club also plans to monitor water quality levels below and above the golf course and report its irrigation activities to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Cottonwood annually, for five years, the Daily Chronicl ereported.
In return, Spanish Peaks was dismissed from the case, which remains active in court, the Daily Chronicle reported. That’s because Cottonwood originally filed the suit against the Yellowstone Club, then enjoined Spanish Peaks as a second defendant in February.
Cottonwood’s case against the Yellowstone Club is ongoing, and a club representative wrote in an e-mailed statement that staff are “confident the lawsuit is meritless and have filed a motion to dismiss it,” the Daily Chronicle reported.
“The Yellowstone Club takes its responsibility to be a good steward of the environment seriously and has invested tens of millions of dollars to ensure the highest standards of water, habitat, and land management,” the representative wrote.
The joint press release between the plaintiffs and Spanish Peaks Mountain Club notes that the club “denied Cottonwood’s allegations and maintains that it has always complied with the Clean Water Act and Montana’s laws and regulations,” the Daily Chronicle reported.
“Although the parties continue to disagree on the merits of the lawsuit, they have agreed to put aside their differences in favor of a resolution that everyone agrees will benefit water quality in the Gallatin River watershed,” according to the joint press release.
Everyone says it’s time to protect the Gallatin River, but talk is cheap, said John Meyer, Cottonwood’s attorney and Executive Director, the Daily Chronicle reported. He applauded Spanish Peaks for agreeing to the terms of the settlement, though he’s wary about the club’s compliance with it.
“Neither party is legally allowed to share additional information beyond the joint statement,” a Spanish Peaks representative said in an e-mailed statement to the Daily Chronicle.
Rather than dumping their treated wastewater directly into the Gallatin River or its tributaries, Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, the Yellowstone Club and other entities in the resort town dispose of it through a land application system, the Daily Chronicle reported.
They store the effluent in holding ponds during the winter months, then spray it on golf courses and other properties during the summer months, the Daily Chronicle reported.
Last December, Cottonwood sued the Yellowstone Club, alleging that it was over-irrigating its golf course, which was adding nitrogen pollution into the South Fork of the Gallatin River—a water-quality impaired stream, the Daily Chronicle reported. A Yellowstone Club representative wrote in the statement that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality approved its irrigation plan, and it uses “a robust water testing regime that is above and beyond what is required by law.”
In February, Cottonwood sued Spanish Peaks Mountain Club on the basis that a liner in its holding pond was torn, and it was also over irrigating its golf course with treated wastewater, the Daily Chronicle reported.
The settlement “is not an admission of the allegations in the lawsuit,” and the “parties are confident that their settlement is in the best interests of the environment and the Big Sky community as a whole,” the joint press release states.