Al Raine’s proposed Cayoosh ski resort took a significant step forward last week when his 1,300-page project report was deemed complete by the project review committee. Raine said he had heard ahead of time that some members of the committee still had concerns the report was deficient in some areas, "but to my surprise it came flying through." It’s only taken nine years and $2 million worth of studies to get this far. Now there will be a 60-day public review period, between Aug. 13 and Oct. 12, which will include public meetings in Lillooet and likely Whistler. The project review committee must make a recommendation to issue or deny an Environmental Assessment certificate for the project before the end of the year. A master development agreement would still have to be negotiated with the province, and financing for development of the resort would have to be found, but Raine said earlier he feels he could be on site doing ground work for the resort next summer. If that timeline holds up it would be 2002 or 2003 before Cayoosh opened to the public for skiing and boarding — the first major ski area development in North America since Blackcomb and Beaver Creek were opened in 1980. (Nakiska opened in 1986-87 but it was developed specifically for the 1988 Winter Olympics.) "I’m very pleased, it’s a big hurdle (to overcome)," Raine said this week. But while the project review committee has decided Raine’s report addressed all the issues, there may still be some studies and additional information to be collected before a recommendation is made on an Environmental Assessment certificate. One of the studies the committee will be looking at is an assessment of the proposal being done by Mount Currie-based Creekside Resources on behalf of the Lillooet Tribal Council. All 11 bands in the Lillooet Tribal Council have apparently agreed to the study, which should be completed by the fall, however not all the bands have come to agreements with the province on land-compensation issues. Raine feels a lease agreement for the proposed resort area could be reached even if the issue of land ownership remains unresolved. Raine has been studying the Melvin Creek area, north-west of Duffey Lake, since 1990. He submitted his initial application for the right to develop the Cayoosh Resort to the province in August 1991. In February, 1992 his application was selected (one other proposal for the area was submitted), but it took more than three years before an interim agreement could be reached with the province outlining the steps toward a final agreement. The Cayoosh proposal entered the Environmental Assessment review process in December of 1996. In October of 1997 the Environmental Assessment office issued its project specifications — specific areas of concern or issues that needed studying. The project report submitted in June and accepted this week is Raine’s response to each of those concerns and issues. Several times over the past nine years Raine was ready to abandon the project out of frustration with a bureaucracy that kept demanding more studies and a process which seemed to invite objections. And while every office and department could find faults, there was no office or agency to take an overview of the whole project. Last year the province commissioned its own independent study of the Cayoosh area, to determine its viability as a ski area and its market potential. That study, done by Whistler’s Brent Harley and Associates and submitted in January, concluded Raine’s project was economically viable, subject to the cost of the access road. Ainsworth Lumber has cutting rights in the Melvin Creek drainage and has agreed to work with Raine. The forest service road Ainsworth will build into the hanging valley will eventually become the access road to the resort. Ainsworth has also agreed to cut trees according to Raine’s plans for ski runs.