Aside from this year's fires and floods, the environmental news of the year has seen some major clashes along familiar lines: snowmaking, uranium mining and management of the Grand Canyon.
But at the same time, Flagstaff has also seen a couple of successful efforts to nudge the community and the region toward addressing climate change somewhat -- adding solar panels to rooftops, creating loans to make homes more energy-efficient, and a major wind park proposal that appears to have legs this time.
Here are some highlights from 2010:
-- Another court has ruled in favor of snowmaking at Arizona Snowbowl this year. This comes after the federal government secretly attempted to pressure the ski area to sell out to the tribes, then, failing that, to get the Flagstaff City Council to sell drinking water instead of recycled wastewater (with a federal subsidy in the millions).
The City Council shot down those ideas, and the tribes didn't buy the ski area, opening the door for snowmaking next year unless a higher court's action prevents construction.
The secret negotiations have a complicating factor: Flagstaff wants to import groundwater from near Navajo and Hopi lands (at Red Gap Ranch), and doing so would require tribal approval for a pipeline.
-- One component of the city's sewage treatment system, the Wildcat wastewaster plant, sometimes wasn't producing the cleanest possible recycled water this year despite investments by Flagstaff voters in the millions in 2004. The upgrade was supposed to have been finished in 2008.
Engineers were considering how to fix the problems, which resulted in high levels of nitrogen and e. Coli bacteria.
-- Past uranium mining in the region left most waterways (streams, creeks) downstream clean enough to drink, the U.S. Geological Survey found in research released in February. Environmentalists see the opposite: The mining had a detectable footprint, they assert.
One mine on the Arizona Strip (north of Grand Canyon) reopened last December, and two more are planned to reopen, with legal and administrative appeals almost a certainty.
-- One of the larger forest-thinning projects in the West was proposed for the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests, across an 800,000-acre area. It's an agreement between environmental groups, loggers and forest agencies.
You have free articles remaining.
The idea is to thin the forests in order to lessen the likelihood of very large wildfires, but on a scale that will assure a long-term wood supply for a forest products plant. Plans are to put the project out to bid by 2012 or 2013.
-- Doney Park is getting solar panels on about 200 homes, courtesy of Arizona Public Service ratepayers, at a cost of about $14 million. This came after the Coconino County Board of Supervisors pondered whether they might form a district of locals who wanted to buy renewable energy and start a major project.
Likewise, Unisource Energy will be loaning out $2.7 million statewide to homeowners seeking to make their homes warmer and more-energy efficient, partly as a result of pressure from Flagstaff conservationists.
-- A major wind park is planned for north of Williams and has initial approval from a Coconino County commission, but awaits final approval from supervisors amid opposition from some neighbors.
-- Northern Arizona University released another projection on how it could cut greenhouse gas emissions on campus. But given faculty travel and costs of retrofitting old buildings, it's debatable whether the university will meet a very aggressive goal adopted in 2007 to become "carbon neutral" by 2020.
-- The coming year might lead to more clarity on where a Red Rock Pass is or isn't required to visit the national forest surrounding Sedona. That comes after a backpacker challenged a Forest Service ticket for parking at a trailhead without a pass, and the judge said the agency was misinterpreting federal law that, in this case, did not allow for such a pass.
-- Researchers found that a March 2008 flood in the Grand Canyon rebuilt sandbars, but that they didn't last. The majority of the sediment that once went down the Colorado River remains behind Glen Canyon Dam.
How to build beaches is something of a hot issue because they have been shrinking in recent years, and vegetation has been spreading over much of what remains, making camping less available for boaters and backpackers.
-- The local White Vulcan pumice mine on the eastern flanks of the San Francisco Peaks is closing 10 years after it received a $1 million federal buyout. It once boomed in the stone-washed-jeans era.
-- The area burned in the 15,000-acre Schultz fire may re-open to the public next summer.
Cyndy Cole can be reached at email@example.com or 913-8607.