Environment minister delivers blow to Jumbo resort

  • Jun. 26, 2015 10:00 a.m.



According to Environment Minister Mary Polak, the construction work on Jumbo Glacier Resort undertaken by Glacier Resorts Ltd. still would not have been enough to be considered a substantial start even if the resorts first two foundations were not located in avalanche zones.

I concluded that even if these partially constructed structures were fully compliant (in non-avalanche zones as stipulated by the projects Environmental Assessment Certificate), the work undertaken would still not have been sufficient to meet the substantially started threshold, said Ms. Polak in her remarks to media after announcing the project was not substantially started on June 18th. While it is clear some construction has started, Im not convinced.

Because of her decision, the Jumbo Glacier Resort project cant proceed unless the developer applies for a new certificate, effectively forcing Glacier Resorts Ltd. to start the process over again from the beginning. The full report explaining the reasons for her determination can be found at https://goo.gl/m7cvYG.

Submissions from Glacier Resorts Ltd., the Shuswap Band and the Ktunaxa First Nation, a report from the Environmental Assessment Office, her own visit to the site on October 11th, 2014, and guidance from the court decision in the Taku River Tlingit First Nation case against the province (that advised more weight should be given to physical permanent structures than other aspects such as money spent on permitting, engineering studies, etc. when evaluating a substantial start) were considered by the minister when making her determination.

I compared what was present with what was planned, said Ms. Polak, noting she also considered other substantially started decisions such as the Tulsequah Chief Mine in northwest B.C. that was given the green light in January. It was obvious the work (on the mine) was substantially started.

In this case (Jumbo Glacier Resort), it was not difficult to find that when you compared the work that had been done, it was very minimal compared to the original phase one plan or even what might be considered for opening a resort.

If Glacier Resorts Ltd. chooses to pursue building in Jumbo Valley, the developer will have to resubmit an

application.

It would be as though they had never been through an assessment before, she said. Their application could be for the same project. Todays decision is not about the merits of the project. That was determined when they were granted their original certificate.

The original project was submitted quite a long time ago so there is every likelihood that reports and assessments would have to be significantly updated… to make sure no new conditions had occurred and no new considerations needed to be assessed.

According to Ms. Polak, her ministry seeks to provide an Environmental Assessment Certificate within 180 days, excluding screening and the application itself.

Any project must be able to provide us with sufficient information that we believe we can effectively assess their project, she said. In the absence of that, we ask that they go back and gather more info before theyre allowed to enter the process.

The minister confirmed the provincial government was not pursuing the course of action it introduced last year then quickly rescinded because of substantial concerns from First Nations and others whereby ski resorts and gas plants would be made exempt from the environmental assessment process.

Im also aware there are implications for the role of the municipality and the Master Development Agreement (MDA), but I did not take those questions into account when making this determination. The appropriate ministries will address the implications as necessary now that the determination has been made, she said.

The MDA is a contract between the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Glacier Resorts Ltd. The developer was first issued tenure for the Jumbo project in 2012 with the signing of the MDA.

Then, specific land-use tenures for recreation infrastructure were issued in 2013 and 2014. These structures include a day lodge at Farnham, a day lodge in the Jumbo Valley, lifts, a service building and a water reservoir.

According to ministry public affairs officer Greig Bethel, all tenures, including the MDA, have a specific duration and may be cancelled or amended.

The ministry is now considering the implications of the EA decision on those tenures, and is waiting to hear from the proponent, he said in an email to The Pioneer on June 22nd. Its premature at this time to make any determinations with respect to Glacier Resorts Ltd.s tenures until the ministry knows what the proponents formal response to the (Environmental Assessment) decision is.

He confirmed RK Heliski has a tenure for some of the area that Glacier Resorts Ltd. had planned for the Jumbo Glacier Resort, and that Glacier Resorts Ltd. and RK Heliski both retain rights in the area.

Glacier Resorts Ltd. still has a Master Development Agreement over the Controlled Recreation Area, Mr. Bethel said. The MDA was issued separate from the EA process and establishes the proponents rights.

The recent decision does not affect the tenures that Glacier Resorts Ltd. currently has. It affects the plans to build a resort. Nor does the recent decision impact existing land-use plans or other land users.

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