Work on Jumbo resort on hold pending decision

  • Oct. 24, 2014 11:00 a.m.

By Steve Hubrecht

Pioneer Staff

As construction work in the Jumbo Valley winds down while the province reviews and decides whether or not the Jumbo Glacier Resort project is substantially started and correspondingly whether or not Glacier Resorts Ltd.s environmental assessment certificate will expire the project continues to pique attention throughout the valley and beyond.

Last week the assessment office sent a letter to Glacier Resorts Ltd. addressing the companys non-compliance with three conditions of its environmental assessment certificate, but the office clarified to The Pioneer that this does not have direct bearing on the provinces review of and decision on whether the project is substantially started. The certificate was granted in 2004 with the condition that it would expire if the province deems the project not substantially started by October 12th, 2014.

The decision on whether the project has been substantially started is a one-time process that is distinct from the ongoing compliance oversight by the government. The minister (of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) or associate deputy minister will consider any information he or she deems relevant in determining whether the project has been substantially started, said Ministry of Environment spokesperson David Karn.

Although the assessment office has never given a clear definition of what exactly constitutes substantially started, resort proponents expressed confidence that construction work in the last few weeks which has involved cement trucks and work crews in the Upper Jumbo Valley among other activities will comfortably qualify.

The substantial start has been achieved. The deadline was met two days early on October 10th. It will take some weeks before the results of the environmental assessment office inspection and determination are made public. Work has stopped while the review is underway, said Glacier Resort Ltd. vice-president Grant Costello.

The three not-complied-with conditions (condition 57, condition 72 and condition 146 in the environmental assessment certificate) referenced in the Thursday, October 9th letter from environmental assessment office policy and compliance manager Autumn Cousins to Pheidias Project Management Corp. president Oberto Oberti relate to water quality and habitat sampling; and to monitoring of unsupervised recreation access. The letter recommends measures to address the water quality and habitat condition non-compliance, including setting up water measure stations, and conducting bank surveys.

The company is working cooperatively with compliance and enforcement staff to address the non-compliances, said Mr. Karn. It is common practice for compliance and enforcement staff to work with companies to focus on getting a project into compliance prior to determining if any enforcement action is appropriate. In this case, a warning has been issued as a preliminary step while the environmental assessment office determines if further enforcement is necessary, in consultation with other government agencies. Provided that the company continues to address the non-compliances, further enforcement may not be required.

Mr. Karn said that the Environmental Assessment Office, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources (FLNRO), and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure have done 15 site visits and inspections since the end of July 2014, and that a review of key pre-construction requirements found the Jumbo Glacier Resort project in compliance with the majority of those requirements.

Mr. Costello confirmed that Glacier Resort Ltd. is taking steps to comply with the three conditions mentioned in the letter.

The three non-compliance items which the assessment office has said they are working with us to complete are now substantially there. The water and volume measuring stations are set up and the creek mapping is complete and the reporting is underway. The unregulated traffic monitoring report has been generated and we are awaiting feedback. Although these are important conditions to meet there is no chance of any environmental damage as a result of a delay in implementing these data collection activities, he said.

The Pioneer contacted former Lake Windermere Ambassadors program manager Kirsten Harma, who has an MSc in Resource Management and Environmental Studies, for comment on the water monitoring measures mentioned in the letter, and she evaluated them as being top-notch.

Its a highly rigourous hydrological assessment (outlined in the letter), it includes water quality, water quantity and fish habitat. Theyre kind of going above and beyond basic monitoring. Absolutely anything that could change theyre going to be monitoring, said Ms. Harma.

Mr. Costello in reference to a letter from Invermere councillor Paul Denchuk in the October 10th edition of The Pioneer criticizing Glacier Resorts Ltd. for not using local residents for the construction work said that although some out-of-town contractors were used (for work on the ski lift; a bridge specialist; some concrete forming workers; and environmental consultants), many local contractors were also used, in all kinds of capacities, and quite a bit of the building supplies were sourced locally, particularly all the concrete, which came from Windermere.

Mr. Karn had previously said the process of reviewing whether or not the project is substantially started will take awhile, but could not give an exact timeline.

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