By Dan Walton
Glacier Resorts Ltd., the developer behind Jumbo Glacier Resort, is ready to begin construction amid ongoing scrutiny presented by opposition groups.
Watchdogs are calling foul at the same time as the Ktunaxa First Nation appeals a B.C. Supreme Court decision made in April that favours the provincial governments approval of the year-round ski resort in Jumbo Valley.
In a September 2nd press release, the West Kootenay EcoSociety posted three allegations made by the Jumbo Citizens Monitoring Camp that Glacier Resorts Ltd. failed to properly notify of a road closure; that a bridge recently installed may be unlawfully encroaching on the edges of Leo Creek; and that an Environmental Assessment Office order against blocking recreation access over the Labour Day weekend was ignored.
Glacier Resorts Ltd. vice president Grant Costello has refuted all three claims.
An industrial road use permit allows developers the right to close the road at any time, he said, as scheduling challenges dont always allow for co-ordinated closures. However, the developers make their best effort to alert the public with temporary signage, he said.
Sections of Jumbo Creek Forest Service Road near the 11 and 13 kilometre points were closed intermittently between Wednesday, August 27th and Friday, August 29th for bridge work. Judy Burns, a member of the monitoring camp, told The Pioneer the closures were poorly organized, and that hikers could have been stranded with such short notice.
Mr. Costello said that while a small number of hiking groups were affected, he received no complaints by members of the public only by members of groups opposed to the resorts development.
Not one person complained about having to hike the extra four kilometres up and down (to the Jumbo Pass trailhead), he said.
In response to the accusation regarding the temporary bridge over Leo Creek, Mr. Costello said it wasnt a legal requirement to begin with.
Because of the number of crossings we decided it would be best for the environment to put a temporary bridge in while were doing that work, he said. We took the precautionary route based on the advise by our environmental consultant.
In an email, ENKON senior environmental specialist Ryan Preston explained the bridges installation met in-stream works standards and best practices.
From a visual basis, observers may feel it is too short based on the positioning of the abutments, but it must be acknowledged that the channel cross section at the ford is modified and is not representative of the channels natural cross section or requirements of hydraulic capacity, reads the email.
The temporary crossing has been reviewed and approved… Furthermore, the bridge will be removed and the pre-existing ford reinstated at the completion of the 2014 construction activities.
And closures over the Labour Day weekend were in line with the law, Mr. Costello explained.
The Environmental Assessment Office didnt say the road couldnt be closed and they cant because they dont have jurisdiction over the road, he said. They only have jurisdiction over the resort.
Regardless of the legality, the short notice of the closure lacked courtesy for the people who use the road, said David Reid, executive director of the West Kootenay EcoSociety, the group that levelled the complaints.
You should give more than 14 hours notice before youre planning on closing a road a road that has significant use and during one of the busiest times of the year.
If Glacier Resorts Ltd. were found in violation of the environmental assessment certificate, construction could be immediately halted, as an environmental monitor from ENKON Environmental Ltd. is observing the process, ENKON president Glenn Stewart told The Pioneer.
Theres a registered professional biologist on site who has the authority to stop construction at any point in time if she thinks something is not being done correctly, said Mr. Stewart.
He said there has been no reasons to stop construction, as the best management practices were being followed.
From our perspective, both bridges were put in to meet all the environmental standards.
Late in 2013, the Environmental Assessment Office received complaints against Jumbo Glacier Resort for constructing a snow-cat trail on Farnham Glacier, which was thought to be an artificial modification, one that would violate the Environmental Assessment Certificate. However, the Environmental Assessment Office reviewed the matter and found that no violation had occurred.
The Environmental Assessment Office found that the establishment of a snow-cat trail would not be considered construction or artificial modification of the glacier in some circumstances, for example providing no road construction or blasting would have been required, said Ministry of Environment spokesperson David Karn in an email. The office communicated its findings to Jumbo Glacier Resort in October 2013.
Another potential legal obstacle facing the resorts development is the Ktunaxa First Nations claim that construction of the resort in their sacred Qatmuk territory will interfere with their spiritual beliefs and practices. Last April, the BC Supreme Court found the consultation process by Jumbo Glacier Resort to be reasonable, but the Ktunaxa First Nation announced on Tuesday, September 2nd that the band will be appealing that decision.
Ktunaxa spirituality is intrinsically tied to Qatmuk and we will continue our fight to stop its destruction, said Kathryn Taneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair.
Mr. Costello said on Tuesday, September 2nd that with the installed bridges providing access, construction on the resort is expected to begin by the end of the week. First on the agenda will be work on a permanent bridge, drilling for water wells, and excavation for the lift and lodge. The work will last about six weeks, he said, and if time permits, concrete foundations may be placed beneath the lodge and lift line.
After halting work for the winter, construction will hopefully resume in May 2015, he said.