It’s taken over 13 years to get there, but at last the would-be developers of the Jumbo Glacier Resort in the East Kootenays have an Environmental Assessment Certificate – albeit with 15 amendments and 195 changes to Jumbo’s development plan.
The Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management confirmed the completion of the environmental assessment on Oct. 14, almost a month after the process was expected to wrap up.
The assessment is considered a major hurdle for the $450 million resort, which will involve the construction of 6,250 bed units (including 750 staff units) and at least 20 lifts in the upper Jumbo Creek drainage, located 55 kilometres west of Invermere. Because of the glaciers, ski operations will run year-round.
George Abbot, the Minister for Sustainable Resource Management, says that even with the environmental assessment, the approval process is not yet complete.
"The Province is required by law to review these matters, but the environmental assessment is just one more step," he said. "There will now be a detailed development of a master development agreement with Land and Water B.C. If that agreement can be reached then a final step will be required by the Regional District of the East Kootenay."
The regional district for the area will ultimately have to approve zoning for the project, which may prove to be the most difficult hurdle for the resorts’ proponents. The main reasons are the large public opposition to the resort in the area, the concerns of local governments, and the fact that the resort is located close to a dozen other ski areas that are not yet running at capacity.
Following the government’s announcement the Regional District of the East Kootenay issued a release saying they would review the impact that the decision would have on local governments before making a decision.
The Regional District is neutral on the development, but has already expressed concerns regarding the impact the resort would have on sewage, storm drainage, roads, policing, hospitals and emergency services.
The mayor of Invermere, the closest community to the resort, has already voiced his opposition to the development, while nearby Radium Hot Springs is in support of the plan.
Another challenge for the resort developers are the various conditions tied to the environmental assessment.
With one of only 49 stable populations of grizzly bears based in the area – despite the areas past history of logging and mining – environmental concerns have been a central argument for the resorts’ opponents.
There are also First Nations considerations, in that the developers must include an Impact Management and Benefit Agreement with the Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Tribal Council into the final Ski Area Master Plan.