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Posted: July 11, 2014

EAO green light for Jumbo laughable: Wildsight

The East Kootenay’s largest environmental watchdog agency is outraged over the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) giving the green light for Jumbo Glacier Resort (JGR) to proceed with development based on a proponent self-report.

The submission of a self-report to the EAO allows JGR to “hurdle” the 195 legally-binding conditions of the Environmental Certificate, Wildsight charged in a July 10 press release.

JumboMap“We’ve been told over and over again that the B.C. government will make sure the Jumbo Resort follows the strictest environmental standards, but now approval for construction is being granted based on a completely insufficient self-report and before a site visit takes place,” said Wildsight’s Robyn Duncan. “It would be laughable if there weren’t such real consequences.”

For Jumbo Glacier Resort, BC’s environmental standards do not require site visits or any verification of the developer’s claims before construction can proceed, so a self-report stating compliance submitted by Glacier Resorts Ltd was enough to get the green light from BC’s Environmental Assessment Office. An audit of Glacier Resorts’ compliance with the environmental certificate conditions will happen only after construction has been green-lighted, Wildsight stated.

“We know that once an on-the-ground audit begins, it will be clear that the environmental certificate conditions have not been properly satisfied,” said Duncan, “but unfortunately our flawed environmental assessment process allows construction in this sensitive area to proceed until the environmental damage piles up.”

macdonaldnormColumbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald agrees with Wildsight and Duncan.

“We have significant questions about the self reporting that was done. It’s not measurable and there is no rigor at all. You are left with no confidence that the public’s interests are being served,” Macdonald told e-KNOW.

Leading grizzly bear biologists have long opposed the resort for the impact to the grizzly population of the Purcell Mountains and do not believe that any proposed measures would mitigate the impacts to the interconnected grizzly population of the Purcell, Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains. Along with grizzly bears, two other species threated by the planned development high in the mountains are mountain goats and west-slope cutthroat trout, Wildsight pointed out in its release.

“Local opposition to the resort development has always been high, because locals recognize that a 6,500-bed resort with 22 chairlifts is simply not appropriate for this remote and environmentally sensitive mountain area,” said Duncan. “In the past few years, under Glacier Resorts’ tenure on the Farnham Glacier, we’ve seen diesel spills, piles of garbage left behind and a failure to properly manage access to the sensitive alpine ecosystem. There’s no reason to expect any different at Jumbo.”

Glacier Resorts plans to begin construction this summer, as its second five-year environmental certificate for the proposed resort expires in October 2014.

The conflict over the proposed development in the Jumbo Valley has been ongoing for more than two decades.

“Local opposition remains strong and the battle to protect the Jumbo Valley is far from over,” added Duncan.

BillBennettlatestProject supporter, Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, who is also Minister of Energy and Mines and Minister for Core Review, told e-KNOW it “is sad to see a non-profit environmental group like Wildsight wasting its donation money on a project that has not only been fully approved by government, but vetted and studied and consulted on for the past 20 years. I would have thought that important environmental issues such as the critical invasive species issue in the Kootenays would be more deserving of their time and resources. It may well be a sign that the organization has become stuck in the past, unable to move on from lost battles and worse yet, incapable of focusing on real environmental threats and not imaginary, contrived ones,” he said.

Macdonald said it is more like the Liberal government that needs to move on from Jumbo, as it is has provided $1 million over five years to help with start of the Jumbo Glacier Resort Municipality, as well as another $50,000 in gas tax funds.

“They’ve been handed 6,000 hectares of public land. It seems like one subsidy after another,” he said, adding he is still waiting to find out if in fact the four-season ski resort proposal for the upper Jumbo Creek Valley, 55 km west of Invermere, has an investor or investors.

“Who is the investor?” Macdonald asks. “No other business gets that sort of special treatment (that isn’t already well-established as a tax-paying entity). It is the cronyism that is incredibly galling.”

Macdonald pointed at a recent tour of the Jumbo area by three provincial cabinet ministers as a sign the Liberal government is only focused on Jumbo and not the myriad of other equally important issues facing his riding and others.

“Much more needs to be talked about” than Jumbo, he said, concluding, “Because in the end, most people think nothing will come of it.”

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