An aerial view of the Jumbo massif

Jumbo in limbo after EAO report

EAO finds proposed resort not in compliance; environmental certificate expires, construction stops

The Oct. 12 deadline has passed, and the forward progress Jumbo Glacier Resort is on hold— at least for the time being.

The environmental certificate for the proposed ski resort in the Purcell Mountains west of Invermere was set to expire on Sunday.

And after the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) released their administrative audit last week, which found the Jumbo proponents to be in non-compliance of their commitments, the certificate will not be renewed pending decision by the Minister of Environment, Mary Polak. Some of the issues in question include streamflow, fish habitat and water quality monitoring.

According to Robyn Duncan of the environmental group Wildsight, which has led opposition to the proposed resort, that decision isn’t expected any time soon.

“(The EAO) didn’t issue any type of stop-work order, which we would have liked to have seen,” Duncan said.

“It was nonetheless heartening to see they had been in non-compliance with many of the commitments we have been highlighting throughout the summer.

“As of October 12th, they are no longer allowed to carry out construction work on the project.”

B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) granted the company a five-year environmental certificate in 2004, and renewed it in 2009. It cannot be renewed a second time, unless construction has “substantially started, in the reasonable opinion of the Minister.”

“I’ve been told by the EAO compliance officers that they have communicated very clearly to the proponent that they are not allowed to continue on construction — it’s not a formal document in the form of a stop-work order but kind of normal practice after the environmental certificate expires,” Duncan said.

The Minister of Environment is now charged with making a decision as to whether or not substantial construction has taken place on this project. Polak was up at Jumbo on the weekend, touring the site, along with EAO compliance officers. The EAO is compiling material to aid in the Minister’s decision.

Duncan said that decision is not expected to come out until the end of November at the earliest. “But it could well be into the new year until we have that decision. But until that time, until they’ve reconciled and come to terms with that they’re not allowed to do any work that would be considered a substantial start.

“What they allowed to do, and have been ordered to do, is work on some of the roads to deal with some of the erosion issues, as well as pulling out two of the temporary bridges they have installed.”

As of press time, representatives of Jumbo Glacier Resort were unavailable for comment.. However, Grant Costello, senior vice-president with Glacier Resorts Ltd, told the Calgary Herald that the construction is still on track — provided the decision by the minister goes in their favour.

The proposed ski resort is a designated resort municipality, 55 km west of Invermere. Jumbo Glacier is planned to be a year-round skiing facility developed in three phases at an estimated cost of $450 million.

Bu the project has long been a source of controversy, splitting public opinion in the East Kootenay, and drawing opposition from environmental groups and the Ktunaxa First Nation. The Ktunaxa have challenged the project in court, and are currently in the process of appealing a  B.C. Supreme Court decision dismissing that challenge.

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