By Andrew Mitchell
To date, VANOC’s environmental activities in Whistler have included everything from relocating tailed frogs to new habitat, to physically removing and treating soil contaminated by diesel fuel spills, to composting site materials on a massive scale.
Part of VANOC’s bid to host the world in 2010 was to produce the greenest Olympics and Paralympics yet, embracing sustainability in everything from building new venues to the Games operations themselves, but details have been slow to emerge.
This week the VANOC North Offices in Whistler met with the media to discuss environmental monitoring highlights from the three competition venues, the Whistler Creekside Alpine Venue, the Whistler Sliding Centre and the Whistler Nordic Competition Venue.
Project managers reported on the status of construction, laid out their construction schedule for the coming year, and discussed the environmental challenges and activities that they have been addressing. It was the first meeting of its kind, and ended with a pledge to continue reporting through the end of the construction phase and the beginning of the operations planning stages.
“Each venue is different, so the (environmental) requirements are different,” commented community relations director Maureen Douglas.
“Our environmental commitment started with the site selection, as the first thing, then was revised once the sites were selected, and as work got underway with the environmental assessment… and is ongoing with environmental monitors on site.”
Third party companies that have been working as environmental monitors submitted their first reports for each site, which collectively fill close to 170 pages. However, a summary report was made available that lists the specifics for each of the three sites.
Whistler Creekside Alpine Venue
Status after 2006: 60 per cent of course improvements to Dave Murray Downhill, Lower Franz’s Trail and Raven (training run) complete. Snowmaking high voltage line is 85 per cent complete, and snowmaking pipe installation is about 50 per cent complete. The new pump house at Fitzsimmons Creek is complete, and work is about 30 per cent complete for pump houses at Olympic Mid-Station and Crabapple.
Planned work for 2007: Complete all course improvements and snowmaking in time for World Cup test events.
According to Rod MacLeod, the project manager, the biggest challenge has been to minimize the impact of trail widening to bring the downhill and training runs into compliance with International Skiing Federation (FIS) requirements.
So far they’ve been able to convince FIS to leave some tree sections, while minimizing the incursion of the courses into old growth forests by 80 per cent. Only 6.87 hectares of old growth have been cut, mostly on the Powerline section of the course, which is far less than was approved in the original environmental assessment.