Time Runs Out on Jumbo Ski Resort's Environmental Certificate

'We knew this project was already on thin ice,' says project opponent.

By Andrew MacLeod 19 Jun 2015 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative bureau chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, April 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

Advocates for keeping Jumbo Glacier wild welcomed news that the environmental certificate has expired for a controversial year-round ski resort that had been proposed for the Kootenay glacier.

Environment Minister Mary Polak announced June 18 that she has decided that the Jumbo Glacier Resort project had not been substantially started by the deadline in its environmental certificate, a decision that means the project may not proceed without obtaining a new certificate.

"I have determined that the project, in my reasonable opinion, had not been substantially started by Oct. 12, 2014," Polak wrote in her 10-page determination. "While it is clear that some construction has been started, I am not convinced that the physical activity undertaken on the various components meets the threshold of a substantially started project."

In making the decision, Polak considered submissions from Glacier Resorts Ltd., the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the Shuswap Indian Band. She also received guidance from past court decisions, reviewed a report from the Environmental Assessment Office, and made a visit to the site.

The project received an environmental certificate in 2004 and the company had five years to start building. The government extended that deadline by five more years in 2009. The project has been in the works for nearly 25 years.

Advocates push for protected status

The glacier is located in the traditional territories of both the Ktunaxa Nation and the Shuswap Indian Band, which have long opposed the project. In 2010, the Ktunaxa declared Qat'muk, the upper part of the Jumbo Creek valley, protected as a refuge for both the Grizzly Bear Spirit and grizzly bears.

The Kootenay environmental group Wildsight, based in Invermere, said that public opposition and the failure to meet environmental requirements had killed the project. "We are overjoyed with the province's decision," Wildsight director Robyn Duncan said in a press release. "This is the only reasonable outcome for this beleaguered project."

Joe Foy, the Wilderness Committee's national campaign director, said in a statement, "We knew this project was already on thin ice. The B.C. government must now take steps to ensure that the Jumbo Pass area is granted protected area status, so this ill-conceived resort proposal never comes back again to endanger the region's grizzly bears and other wildlife."

Plans for the $450-million development included a 104 hectare ski resort, a 6,250 bed hotel, condominium vacation homes and other amenities. Ski runs would use another 5,925 hectares of the valley.  [Tyee]

Read more: Travel, Environment

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