Proposed Garibaldi ski resort at Squamish gets key environmental assessment certificate

A proposed ski resort, Garabaldi at Squamish, has received a key environmental assessment certificate, the B.C. forests and lands ministry announced on Friday, Jan. 29.

Mount Garibaldi as seen from Black Tusk. The image portrays a landscape in the area, not exactly where the ski resort will be located. Photo Michael Scheltgen, Flickr Creative Commons.

A proposed ski resort, Garibaldi at Squamish, has received a key environmental assessment certificate, the B.C. forests and lands ministry announced on Friday, Jan. 29.

Vancouver businessman Bob Gaglardi is a key proponent in the project, along with other prominent business interests including the Aquilini family. Gaglardi’s Northland Properties, runs Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

The environmental assessment certificate was seen as a key step in the development of the resort. The resort has faced opposition from environmental groups, as well as from business interests in Whistler, who are concerned about a new resort opening closer to Vancouver.

In their Jan. 29 media release, the B.C. government outlined 40 conditions on the environmental assessment certificate. Here is that media release:

VICTORIA – Environment Minister Mary Polak and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson have issued an environmental assessment certificate to Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. for the Garibaldi at Squamish project.

The decision was made after considering a review led by British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office. A record of the factors that  the ministers considered in making their decision can be found in the Reasons for Ministers’ Decision at:

There are 40 conditions that are attached to the environmental assessment certificate. Design requirements are specified in a certified project description. Each of the conditions and the certified project description are legally-binding requirements that Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. must meet to be in compliance with the environmental assessment certificate.

The certificate conditions were developed following consultation and input from Squamish Nation, government agencies, local governments, communities and the public. Key conditions for the project require Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. to:

* limit the rate of groundwater withdrawal from the Paradise Valley aquifer;

* monitor daily water consumption and the levels of the aquifer and develop a web-based tool to allow live public access to this information;

* complete a study that determines potential adverse effects from the construction and operation of groundwater pumping on the sidechannels of the Cheakamus River, which are important salmon spawning habitat;

* retain the services of a qualified person with demonstrated experience and knowledge of environmental monitoring for construction projects in B.C., prior to construction;

* complete a Biodiversity Retention Environmental Management Plan to address potential impacts on vegetation and wildlife;

* complete a Brohm River Management Plan to ensure the project does not affect that sensitive river;

* avoid and reduce risks of potential bear-human conflicts and ensure that Garibaldi at Squamish achieves “Bear Smart” status or equivalent designation by no later than the first anniversary of the commencement of operations; and

* provide at least 10% of the resort bed units as employee housing to address adverse effects from potential increases in housing costs and shortages of rental accommodation in Squamish.

In addition, Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. proposed a number of design changes during the environmental assessment, based on feedback received during the process, including:

* changing the water supply from surface water to groundwater;

* removing golf courses from the overall project;

* removing development near Cat and Brohm Lakes, which are important recreational areas to residents of Squamish; and

* eliminating water reservoirs, with the exception of a snowmaking reservoir.

The environmental assessment certificate decision is the first in a series of decisions and approvals necessary for the Project to proceed. The environmental assessment certificate is a decision under the Environmental Assessment Act, and while the decision enables a range of other authorizations to be considered, it in no way presumes how these other independent statutory decision makers might approach or decide on those subsequent authorizations.

Some of the other significant approval steps the Garibaldi at Squamish project must complete before it can proceed include:

* a potential boundary expansion decision by the District of Squamish should the Project reside within the District of Squamish;

* local government decisions on Official Community Plans and bylaws to provide direction on the development;

* an amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy which requires approval from all municipalities in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District;

* approval in principle from either the District of Squamish or the Squamish Lillooet Regional District prior to the Province accepting an application for a Master Plan under the All-Seasons Resort Policy; and,

* approval of a Master Plan by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

All of these decisions have the potential to significantly change the nature and scope of the project and would address many of the issues raised during the assessment that are outside the scope of the assessment.

The Environmental Assessment Office will co-ordinate compliance management efforts with other government agencies to ensure that the office is satisfied that the certificate conditions are met throughout the life of the project.

The project is a year-round destination mountain resort community that would include ski lifts, trails (ski and multi-use), resort accommodation and housing units, guest services, public amenities, and groundwater supply and infrastructure. The overall project area would be 2,759 hectares.

British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office is a neutrally administered office that is required by law to undertake rigorous, thorough reviews of major projects in British Columbia. These reviews provide significant opportunities for Aboriginal groups, government agencies and the public to influence the outcome of environmental assessments by providing input on the potential for environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects from a proposed project.