Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County plans to lend its voice to the Forest Service's consideration of a recreation company's development plans for Holland Lake lodge, making it the latest to express concern over the proposal and what it sees as a lack of adequate review.

Commissioners this week met with Chet Crowser, the chief officer for county planning, to fine tune a letter they plan to send to the Forest Service regarding POWDR's plan.

“It's pretty straight forward,” Crowser said. “We're just trying to highlight all the concerns that we have.”

From the county's standpoint, the list of concerns is relatively long. Among them, commissioners fear that the history of the lodge and its charming qualities could be lost under the current development proposal.

They also believe the plan would price out “the locals” who have used the location as a day spot for years. The lake, nearby waterfall and the lodge itself, with its rustic charm, have been an attraction for decades.

“Holland Lake in large part is used by locals, and the kind of development being contemplated is not for locals,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “It really feels like a place that people go would be removed from a suite of places a person could go. This would now be a place that's off limits to them, not legally, but financially.”

Crowser said the letter will also touch on recreational concerns, and how overuse could impact the setting and user experience. They plan to provide numbers around what impacts an expansion would have on changing user days over the course of the year.

That could also impact the seasonal natural of the lodge and push recreation into the shoulder seasons, which could impact wildlife, grizzly bears in particular.

“What does that mean in particular for grizzly bears?” Crowser said. “We want to recognize the significance of this area with the conservation strategy around grizzly bears. We also have lynx, bull trout and wolverine in the process of being listed.”

attachment-Holland Lake Plans

As proposed, POWDR would preserve the lodge, the owner’s cabin and the barn, and winterize the buildings so the facility could operate year-round. The old gift shop and cabins would be removed.

The plan also calls for several new buildings, including a 13,000-square-foot lodge with 28 rooms, a restaurant, a welcome center for check-in, and 10 cabins, 16 smaller studio cabins and new support buildings for maintenance and employee housing.

The new facility would hold up to 156 guests and would require larger wastewater and sewage systems. During a recent community council meeting, the county said the Forest Service suggested that POWDR could possibly take over the wastewater system from the Forest Service and also provide the service to nearby campgrounds.

“It would provide the dump station and overall septic and sanitation needs,” Crowser said. “That was a new wrinkle. We hadn't heard that previously. Having private oversight over this public infrastructure, what does that mean?”

In a letter to the Missoula Current, POWDER CEO Justin Sibley said the sanitation system would mark an improvement and be more environmentally friendly for the lake and water quality.

“Planned upgrades for the wastewater and sewage systems, non-motorized boat docks and employee housing will enhance the guest experience while ensuring the least possible environmental impact,” Sibley said. “The current proposed updates to the infrastructure will be more sustainable for the lake as they are designed with conservation and environmental protection.”

Topping the county's concerns, however, may be the method in which the Forest Service plans to review the proposal. As it stands, it plans on using a categorical exclusion given the site is already a recreation hot spot and contains buildings.

“The categorical exclusion doesn't at all seem to be the appropriate level of analysis given we have so many potential impacts, not to mention cumulative impacts,” Crowser said. “We request the Forest Service actually use the environmental analysis as a way to analyze this.”

The county plans to approve its final letter on Thursday before sending it to the Forest Service.