The driving force behind Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS), the four-season resort proposed for Squamish on Brohm Ridge, has set late 2016 as the new date he and his team are working toward to start operations.
With the re-election of the BC Liberals Wolfgang Richter, vice-chair of GAS Inc., said the mountain resort project has continuity at the provincial level.
Richter added that another year of work is needed to complete the environmental assessment process. Once the project is given an environmental certificate, Richter said he'd like to see the District of Squamish (DOS) annex the project lands while the provincial government is working to determine if the project proponents will be allowed to negotiate a Master Development Agreement (MDA) with the province. According to Richter, the MDA will include five phases spread over 25 years to build-out.
"The community has the hammer," Richter said. "We don't get to build one phase of this project without somebody, a legislative body, giving us zoning."
The entire area for the $5.5 billion project is now within the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District but Richter said he feels the DOS is the more appropriate local government to grant the zoning for the resort.
Early results from a water study by Piteau Associates indicated there is enough water in the Paradise Valley aquifer to provide the development with the water needed for the mountain village. According to the consulting company, test wells were drilled in the Paradise Valley and a study of the volumes of water pumped from the wells indicated the water required for Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) can be pulled from the aquifer without significantly impacting other wells and streams in the area. The findings from the ongoing study were presented at a public meeting hosted by GAS in May.
About 100 people attended the meeting in Squamish to hear the project update.
"I believe we have the water," Richter said. "The water is the biggest environmental assessment issue because you need to have all the water for the entire development."
He added that detailed information is required and no fish can be killed in delivering the water for the proposed 22,000 bed unit resort.
Kathy Tixier, a hydro geologist with Piteau, analyzed data from the two test wells drilled near the Cheakamus River. She said her objective was to share what has been learned to date from the study her company is doing.
A primary test well was drilled down 12 metres (40 feet) to determine if water could be pumped out of the ground at 72 litres (19 gallons) per second, the amount of water the proponents have determined is required to run the four-season resort.
"We tested the well for four days in late February," said Tixier. "Part of the reason we chose that time of year was the flow rates in the Cheakamus River are typically low."
Tixier reported that pumping the amount of water required to run the resort resulted in minimal impacts on existing wells in the area and the water flows in the Cheakamus River. She added that high-quality water that meets Canadian drinking water guidelines was pumped up from the Paradise Valley aquifer.
Citizen scientist John Buchanan expressed concern for the impact a well supplying water to a resort could have on Swift Creek, a small tributary of the Cheakamus River, that is prone to completely drying up during arid summer seasons. He suggested a multi-year study is required.
"All the evidence is pointing towards the model that Swift Creek is uncoupled from the aquifer," said Tixier. "If aquifer levels go up and down they don't directly affect Swift Creek."
The project concept dates back to the 1960s when Adi Bauer started construction of a resort. His project wasn't completed and Richter picked up the dream in the late 1980s and has been working to construct the resort since that time.