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garibaldi at squamish

Garibaldi at Squamish gets a deadline But ski resort takes wait and see approach By Chris Woodall The good news for Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort entrepreneur Wolfgang Richter is that he has a deadline to earn his construction permit: May, 1999. The bad news, according to Richter, is that he'd prefer to have that as a construction start date. One of Richter's greatest fears was that the application process for his ski resort would get shunted to an endless second stage of studies. The project will proceed to stage 2 of the Environmental Assessment process, but there is a deadline. "Oh yeah, especially for us!" is the way David Johns, Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) project director responded when asked if procedural dates had been set. The Environmental Assessment Office has developed an integrated review process with the Commercial Alpine Ski Policy (administered by the Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks) that will allow for planning and evaluating this and other ski area proposals at the same time, Johns says. Instead of taking each step as it comes, Johns says such things as municipal input can be done "in parallel," greatly shortening the time to check off everyone's look at the project. "All the work gets done, but it's done properly without any unnecessary delays," Johns says. "For the first time, it shows we are redoubling our efforts to be responsive to public demands in a timely manner," Johns says. Richter is not so sure. "A permit for May, 1999? What is that? I want to start construction by May, 1999," says the resort builder. Other ski resort-building hopefuls have become bogged down in a bureaucratic morass of never-ending studies, so you'd think Richter would be overjoyed to get a firm commitment. "I wouldn't say I'm pleased," Richter says. "In a way, I'm a little underwhelmed. To be generous, I'm cautiously optimistic, but very concerned still." Richter is leery of government bafflegab. "There's a lot of rhetoric, a lot of actions that don't reflect the words," he says. But he will give the EAO its due. "We're grateful for some of the things the EAO has done. We have had significant progress." The new process is to be "co-managed" by the EAO and the two ministries of Environment, Lands and Parks, and Employment and Investment. "As well, a senior advisory committee must be created to ensure that timelines are being met and issues are handled efficiently and effectively," says a memo from Garibaldi at Squamish sent the same day as the EAO announcement. It took an April 29 meeting of the Environmental Assessment review committee to unanimously agree to the integrated process. The committee is composed of the key provincial and municipal players (including one representative from Whistler, one from regional government and three from Squamish). The first deadline is up to the environmental assessment office to meet. It has 20 days from May 6 to draft the specifications that will be guidelines Garibaldi Alpen must follow to prepare its report. "(The draft) becomes the legal terms of reference, so there's no changing the goal posts," Johns says. "If the proprietor meets all the terms within the requirements, we will recommend to the two provincial ministries involved that the proprietor get the permit," Johns says. What that means is that Garibaldi Alpen will have certain items to explain or to have reached agreement on by May 1999: o sewage management and water supply issues, o impacts on Garibaldi Provincial Park next door, o impacts on regional growth, o traffic management, o and socio-economic and project viability. There is one more issue that could prove to be the biggest obstacle: First Nation's input and approval. "We still haven't engaged representatives of the First Nations in the process," Johns says. The hold up here stems from last December’s Supreme Court of Canada decision affecting all transactions involving Crown land in B.C., known generally as Delgamuukw. "We hope to get them engaged as soon as possible, but that won't hold up everyone else proceeding" until those other inputs are complete, Johns says. Richter says he has been talking with Squamish Nation representatives and everything is proceeding well in that department. "We have a process going with Squamish Nation," Richter says. "We're quite ready to sit down with First Nations people and discuss these things," Richter says. "They're not critical of our approach to them, but they are critical of the government's approach to them. "It's a serious concern," he says. "We're going at this thing with the First Nations on a sincere level."