UPDATED: “Substantially started” decision for Jumbo Glacier Resort delayed

  • Dec. 19, 2014 8:00 a.m.

The provinces decision as to whether or not Jumbo Glacier Resort was substantially started by the potential October 12th expiry date of its Environmental Assessment Certificate has been delayed as the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is requesting additional information regarding the location of Jumbo Glacier Resorts day lodge.

In a letter addressed to Glacier Resorts Ltd. president Oberto Oberti dated December 11th, EAO manager of policy and compliance Autumn Cousins writes: Based on the recent complaints and information reviewed through compliance oversight, Environmental Assessment Office Compliance and Enforcement is assessing whether the Day Lodge and service building locations meet the requirements of condition 36.

Condition 36 of the Environmental Assessment Certificate for the Jumbo Glacier Resort project states that Residential and commercial structures will be located completely outside the avalanche hazard area. As previously reported in The Pioneers November 7th issue, footage and information supplied by RK Heliski suggesting that the foundation for the resorts day lodge was located in the path of a Class 4 avalanche zone were the basis for an NDP anti-attack in the provincial legislature earlier last month.

In last weeks letter, Ms. Cousins goes on to say that given the proximity of the building sites to historical avalanche paths, the Environmental Assessment Office is requiring an engineering avalanche risk evaluation, including a zoning plan, consistent with the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) Guidelines to ensure the locations of any commercial and residential buildings are compliant with condition 36. The EAO is also stipulating that zoning plans for the resort be conducted by a professional engineer in good standing with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia (APEGBC) in addition to professional member status with the CAA.

Executive director of the Canadian Avalanche Association, Joe Obad, told The Pioneer this request is in line with the typical process for occupied structures in British Columbia that are in close proximity to avalanche terrain.

In cases where the element at risk is not an occupied structure, for example, workers in avalanche terrain, a CAA professional with appropriate training and experience is usually able to perform an avalanche risk assessment, he said in an email.

However, where there are permanent occupied structures involved, CAA members defer to the Scope of Practice APEGBC, which is protected by statute.

He interprets Cousins letter as to imply that a single person would meet the listed qualifications.

I would defer to the EAO on this, but I understand it is usually acceptable for an engineer to lead a team of experts working together to assess the hazard facing the potential structure in question.For example, CAA professionals may work under the direction of a professional engineer to assess vegetation, historical records and other resources to define return periods, frequencies, and magnitudes of the avalanche paths in the area. Ultimately, the professional engineer would be responsible for any risk assessment the team as a whole might contribute to, said Mr. Obad, adding that a handful of CAA professionals are also professional engineers with APEGBC.

A Ministry of Environment spokesperson told The Pioneer in an email that the EAO originally anticipated completing its substantial start report in early December.

Although the impact, if any, of the compliance status of condition 36 on the substantially started question has not been determined, the Environmental Assessment Office has decided that it is prudent to wait until there is greater clarity on the compliance status before proceeding with the substantially started determination, the spokesperson said. After the Compliance and Enforcement team concludes the compliance status of condition 36, the Environmental Assessment Office will finalize the substantial start report for the Minister of Environment.

Ms. Cousins concludes her letter by stating while EAO is currently determining if the Day Lodge and service building locations are compliant with condition 36, Glacier Resorts Ltd is responsible for ensuring that all commercial and residential buildings are completely outside of the avalanche hazard area. The letter is posted on the EAO website and can be read in full at http://goo.gl/BqqIJD.

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