By Steve Hubrecht
Opponents of the Jumbo Glacier Resort project have established a watchdog camp in Jumbo Creek, as Glacier Resorts Ltd. presses ahead with its most significant physical infrastructure developments yet.
Glacier Resorts Ltd. and Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality are undertaking work to put in three bridges a temporary metal bridge spanning Leo Creek on the Jumbo Creek forest service road, another temporary bridge, and a permanent bridge at kilometre 15.8 on the same road. The permanent bridge is being paid for by the municipality; the temporary bridges by Glacier Resorts Ltd.
Its surreal, said Glacier Resorts Ltd. vice president Grant Costello on how it feels to be on the verge of starting construction of a project that was first proposed more than two decades ago.
The developers environmental assessment certificate is set to expire this October if the project is not substantially started. Mr. Costello said although substantially started is a subjective term, the temporary bridges wont qualify since they are merely for access. But, he explained, Glacier Resorts Ltd. has plenty more development work lined up once the bridges are in (all three will likely be in place in September), including surveying of a lift line, starting construction of the resorts first chair lift, surveying a building site for a day lodge and pouring the first foundation for the lift.
(Well) survey it, clear it, clear the lift line, and build the bottom foundation put the concrete in the ground for the base, where the lift terminal and engine and everything sits. We may do some footings on the lift towers going up depending on the timeframe, said Mr. Costello. And were going to build the foundation of the day lodge.
The developers may also begin work on surveying and clearing an internal main access road running from the beginning to the end of the resort within the site, he said.
The watchdog camp was established on Wednesday, August 20th by several people including local residents Jim Galloway, Pat Morrow, Bob Campsall and Nolan Rad. Although most are members of local environmental group Wildsight, Wildsight spokesperson Robyn Duncan said the group was supporting the camp, but not officially organizing it. The West Kootenay Ecosociety had earlier this month invited people to the camp, but Ecosociety executive director David Reid similarly said that although the Ecosociety is supporting the camp, it is not running it.
The provincial Environmental Assessment Office cant keep people on the ground all the time, so thats when the public has to step in, Mr. Reid had said before the camp was set. For the most part, I think it (the camp) will be a lot of talking to people coming by, taking photos and documenting what goes on so that everybody can be sure that the resort proponents are complying with the 195 conditions they made as part of their environmental assessment certificate.
Updates on the camp are being posted on Jumbo Wilds Facebook page.
The critics we have are Wildsight. They say they are going to monitor our activities because nobody is. Thats not true because in fact we have a number of ministries that are monitoring our activities, said Mr. Costello. We have the Mountain Resorts Branch under the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, so they have environmental assessment and compliance people who monitor what we do. Also, the (provincial) Environmental Assessment office has a compliance division. They are going to monitor what we do. They have been out here already and they will be out here again during construction.
Mr. Costello said the developers are, in addition, employing private environmental monitoring company ENKON to oversee construction and any work around streams.
The public should be assured that this resort is going to be built to the highest environmental standard possible and certainly higher than any other resort that were aware of, said Mr. Costello.
The developers have an extensive 69-page 2014 construction environmental management plan, and a 92-page contractor handbook, which lays out protocols to be followed.
Ms. Duncan was unconvinced, saying some of the 195 conditions on the developers environmental assessment certificate need to be satisfied before construction starts.
Our review of the conditions indicated that many of the conditions have not yet been addressed, she said, adding she feels proceeding with construction before all these conditions are met is a violation of the environmental assessment certificate.
Ms. Duncan added that clearly the environmental assessment office is taking the matter seriously, since it is sending compliance officers to the Jumbo Valley, and that Wildsight is awaiting the results of the offices administrative audit.