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Posted: October 8, 2014

The terrible foundation of negligence

Cobbhed bwKootenay Crust

By Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

The road to the upper Jumbo Creek Valley is your typical logging road.

It is 55 km from Invermere to the Jumbo Glacier Resort site, with the first 18 kms a somewhat maintained paved stretch that follows the Toby Creek canyon and the creek to Panorama Mountain Village.

The next 19 kms is a fairly decent logging road, with a couple of dramatic sections, leading to the old Mineral King Mine property.

After that, it’s uphill most of the 18 kms into the Jumbo Creek Valley/resort site and the quality of the road dips substantially.

The above assessment could have been made in 1990, 2000, 2010 and it applies to today.

One of a couple massive slide paths east of Mineral King Mine beside Toby Creek Road.
One of a couple massive slide paths east of Mineral King Mine beside Toby Creek Road.

Which is what makes me so concerned.

You see, back in 1990/91, Vancouver architect Oberto Oberti recognized that a logging road led to the base of mountains hosting glaciers with major playgrounds of corn snow and powder and the Jumbo ski resort idea was born.

Even though a well-established helicopter skiing company (RK Heli-Ski) founded by industry pioneer, Columbia Valley resident Roger Madson, was already engaged in using said playgrounds for its business, via B.C. government tenure approval, Oberti convinced the then NDP government of Mike Harcourt to let him develop a four-season resort for some Japanese and American investors.

It was the presence of the basic logging road that made the location so attractive to Oberti. Major coin could be saved and bureaucratic headaches avoided because the most expensive initial step in development was already in place.
In the early days of the Jumbo dream, I actually thought the scheme to be a pretty neat idea and supported it. Until I drove to the old saw mill site where the proposed village would be centred with Oberti one drizzly October day in about 1995.

As he showed me how and where his dream would come to be realized, I just kept looking at the road, thinking, “well this needs to be majorly upgraded.”

Jumbo Resort would be the savior of Welfare Valley because it would bring construction jobs and full-time resort jobs for we poor hillbillies in the East Kootenay, where the economy wasn’t all that hot at the time, as supporters espoused.

Oberti still wants to create a European-style ski village in the heart of the Purcells, though the investors disappeared like the oomph of the Japanese economy in the late 1990s and to this day B.C. taxpayers are still being denied our right to know exactly who it is we are leasing our land to.

The dream is for Europeans and Americans and Asians to flock to Calgary or Cranbrook, rent cars or climb on busses and head up into Jumbo to play on the finest accessible snowfields in North America.

Another massive slide path on the north side of Toby Creek Road, about five km from Mineral King Mine site. Images by Ian Cobb
Another massive slide path on the north side of Toby Creek Road, about five km from Mineral King Mine site. Images by Ian Cobb

And now I am back on the road. It is Saturday, Oct. 4 (2014) and anti-Jumbo Resort forces are staging a rally to wave placards at concrete trucks slated to roll into Jumbo to begin pouring the foundation to the day lodge.

Alas, it rained a fair bit the night before in Jumbo and the first concrete-laden truck becomes stuck, forcing a kibosh on the day’s plans as the road needed to be secured in order to handle the weight.

Pause and let that sink in.

The first major construction truck to roll into Jumbo in early October gets stuck.

Why? Because rain (or snow) which is a regular thing in Jumbo happened and the road got a tad greasy and soft.

Blows. My. Mind.

I wrote numerous editorials and columns in The Echo over the years, railing against the resort proponents’ claims that “the road is fine as it is,” as Oberto’s local man on the ground Grant Costello told me in about 1997.

At that time,  I informed Mr. Costello that if things went ahead and the road was left as it is, and someone was hurt or killed on the road because of the crappy conditions, that I would be coming to him for a public explanation as to why someone had to be needlessly hurt or die because of negligence.

No one was hurt (that I know about) or died on Saturday but my point that the road sucks was proven.

The scale of the plans for the Jumbo Resort is massive. The quantity of trucks and heavy equipment that will be rolling in and out of there is going to be massive.

The provincial government in its sorry lack of wisdom has failed to make the proponent pony up to bring the road to proper standards – at least secondary paved road standards – in order to handle the vast load of construction traffic.

Now consider the amount of time it will take to build the resort – an estimated 25 years.

During that time, tourists in rent-a-cars will be toodling up into Jumbo to ski and play. They will be mostly urbanites who have never driven a high country logging road in their lives, which will be in constant peril because, amazingly, the road remains a donkey cart path from Mineral King Mine to the Jumbo Village site.

A narrow and dangerous section of Toby Creek Road, about six km from Panorama.
A narrow and dangerous section of Toby Creek Road, about six km from Panorama.

The stretch between Panorama and Mineral King will be enough to kill a few unlucky sorts without the skills to know what to expect and how to handle it. After that it gets worse.

My head aches at the thought of lawsuits coming B.C.’s way when a family or families come after it for allowing tourists into an area that has a logging road for vehicular passage instead of a proper highway. Don’t even think about a bus load of people going over a cliff into the Toby or getting hit and crushed by a massive slide from one of the 60 odd major slide paths vehicles have to pass by.

Won’t that be nice, taxpayers? Us having to foot the bill for those lawsuits? Never mind the dagger to our collective consciences that some poor souls will die because responsible safety measures were not installed before some offshore sorts make money on our Crown land, in what is more clearly all the time a land use boondoggle.

Thus far the only ‘improvements’ to the road are a few bridges installed, apparently not all that well according to lifelong valley resident and Jumbo opponent Nolan Rad, who helped build the Toby and Jumbo roads decades ago. The road “is still the same as it was then,” he told me Oct. 4.

The bridges have been installed as part of the rush to establish ‘substantial infrastructure’ in order for Jumbo Glacier Resorts to show the provincial government that it is obeying the requirements of its Environmental Assessment Certificate. The province could deem on Oct. 12 that not enough work has been done and shut the whole thing down.

I will pause while you stop laughing, because let’s face it, if the resort proponents had only half-heartedly pounded a couple of stakes into the ground noting where an outdoor biffy would be placed, the provincial government forces aligned with the proponents would be high fiving one another and giving tumid thumbs up.

If 24 years of opposition, from about two-thirds of local residents, as well as from a First Nation that is vehemently opposed to it (Ktunaxa Nation) hasn’t convinced Victoria to ‘step away from the steaming pile of dung,’ do you honestly believe a failure in X, Y or Z of ‘commitments’ will shut it down?

Right. So back to this crappy road leading to a dead end high alpine valley.

For the umpteenth time in the past 24 years, I demand of our provincial government and of the proponent, as well of the appointed Jumbo Glacier Resort Municipality, which didn’t know about the cement truck becoming stuck Saturday and the subsequent failure and costs involved (one simply can’t leave cement in a truck if the proposed pouring locale cannot be reached), to do the right thing. Fix that damned road to standards where the lives of construction workers and resort employees are not put in danger, where the lives of locals who enjoy visiting Jumbo won’t be imperiled by a road torn to pieces and where the lives of the valuable tourists, who will be the bread and butter of said resort, won’t be placed in severe jeopardy.

To not do that is flat out irresponsibility and negligence, of the proponent and the province.

As a B.C. taxpayer, I demand of my government in Victoria to force this issue. If not, the current government cabinet and government bureaucrats involved should be the individuals involved in lawsuits that will come as sure as snow in Jumbo in October and they should foot the bill, not the broader tax base. You want it; you wear it.

The broader tax base, to the tune of 60-65% has over the years screamed “no” about this scheme and were ignored, so why the flaming hell should we pay for your unbelievable lack of due diligence when crap hits the fan?

It’s one thing for the powers that be to ignore the wishes of the majority; in this day and age we’re all used to watching seniors levels of government do whatever they please. It is another altogether for them to allow something to proceed when public safety has in no way been considered.


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