It looks like the SLRD has gotten its way — the
environmental assessment of the Garibaldi at Squamish project has been
At the end of August, SLRD board and staff recommended the
province’s environmental assessment of the GAS project be suspended, as they
felt the proponent, Garibaldi at Squamish Inc., had failed to provide important
information on environmental issues, like water supply, and the overall scale
and design of the proposed ski resort.
They also pointed out that some of the information put forward
by the proponent was almost 10 years old, and didn’t accurately reflect recent
Graeme McLaren, project assessment director for the
Environmental Assessment Office, sent a letter to the Chairman of the GAS
project on Sept. 14, stating the assessment had been suspended 100 days into
Under the Environmental Assessment Act, there is a 180-day time
limit for review of any application, but the process can be suspended at any
point, to enable proponents to provide additional information.
The GAS assessment officially began on June 7, 2007.
“The information requirements will need to be satisfied before
I am prepared to resume the 180-day review process for the project,” McLaren
stated in the letter.
“The information is needed to address issues and concerns
identified by the EAO and the Project Working Group, and through the public
The SLRD is a member of the technical working group, and had
been asked to review and comment on the GAS application.
Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland sits on the SLRD board, and said
he was pleased to hear the process had been paused to allow time for the
proponent to supply additional information.
“We’ve asked for information in Squamish — and I know the
SLRD has, as well — that hasn’t been forthcoming in a timely way and our
concern was always that the clock would run down and there wouldn’t be enough
time to evaluate information or the information would be missing,” said
McLaren’s letter did not specify what additional information
GAS needs to supply, but indicated his office would send a separate letter
listing the requirements, which will be compiled from suggestions of the
McLaren wouldn’t speculate on the potential duration of the suspension, because he says it will depend on how long it takes the proponents to compile the necessary information.
The clock will start again once he is satisfied the additional information is sufficient, which may involve consultation with members of the working group.
Mike Esler, president and CEO of Garibaldi at Squamish Inc.,
said he was expecting the suspension, and doesn’t believe it will cause serious
delays in the development plans.
“No one has dropped tools,” said Esler.
“We’ve continued on, as has the provincial government, so we’re
all working towards getting this process officially started again, and I think
we’re talking days, not weeks.”
Esler wouldn’t get into the details of what information they
are being asked to provide, but said they are still discussing the outstanding
items with the Environmental Assessment Office.
He did say that some of the items are not actually required
under the environmental review, but will be in later stages of the development
McLaren said he is attempting to filter through the working group’s concerns and clarify what is necessary under the EAOs assessment.
“There’s a certain level of information needed for an environmental assessment certificate, but if there are subsequent permitting decisions that need to be made… that requires much more detailed information than we need,” he said.
This certainly isn’t the first time the GAS project has been
sidetracked. After the proponents filed their master plan in April 2003, the
Squamish Nation sued the provincial government, which put development plans on
Squamish Nation eventually came to an understanding with GAS,
which allowed the plans to move forward again.
Esler said the delay made some of their reports outdated, but
they haven’t been asked to update them, and to do so would be unreasonable,
given the delay wasn’t their fault. He also pointed out that suspensions happen
in projects of this nature and scope.
“There’s just a myriad of agencies and working groups that have
to review these things, and they all have questions,” Esler said.
McLaren’s letter also said the public will have another
opportunity to respond, once the additional information is received by the EAO.
In addition, Esler said GAS is taking steps to ensure the local
community stays informed about the progress of the development. They have hired
a public relations company, and will soon be launching their own website.