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Province deliberating on Jumbo compliance decision

A concrete foundation at the site of Jumbo Glaicer Resort. Photo courtesy Tommaso Oberti.

The future of the Jumbo Valley is currently in limbo, as the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) recently found the project to be in non-compliance with several conditions of its environmental assessment certificate, which expired earlier this week on (Sunday) October 12 – and some are questioning whether construction has substantially started.

According to a letter sent by the EAO on (Thursday) October 9 to Oberto Oberti, project manager for Jumbo Glacier Resort, a review of records shows the project is in compliance with the majority of the pre-construction conditions, but that there are still three conditions with which the project has not complied.

Two have to do with stream flow and water quality monitoring in the Jumbo Valley while the other has to do with monitoring of unsupervised public recreational use of the area.

The letter goes on to state that the EAO has a policy of working with companies to address non-compliances, while outlining actions necessary for the project to comply with the conditions in question. It also notes that the letter is a warning

The letter states that the EAO believes Jumbo can be in compliance with at least two of the conditions by taking measures as outlined within it, and that the EAO tries to work with companies to address non-compliances before taking enforcement measures.

Minister of Environment Mary Polack and staff from various government agencies did a site visit last weekend to do a field inspection for various aspects of compliance on the Jumbo project.

The final decision on Jumbo rests with the provincial government and what the results of that inspection were are only the knowledge of government officials right now, as the Ministry of Environment had little to say on the matter.

David Karn, spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment (MOE) told The Nelson Daily that the EAO and other government agencies are coordinating compliance and oversight for the project, and thus far no determination has been made.

Karn added that here’s no set time to make a decision on determining whether the project has been substantially started.

Karn said that if the resort continues construction in the period between October 12 and when the decision is rendered, it could be found in violation of provincial laws.

“If Glacier Resorts Ltd. decides to work past October 12th, 2014 they are, potentially, at their own risk of constructing without an Environmental Assessment Certificate,” he said.

“If it is determined the project was not substantially started, any work done after October 12, 2014 would be in violation of section 8 of the Environmental Assessment Act.”

Concerns go beyond environmental compliance

According to David Reid, executive director of the West Kootenay Eco Society, there are some issues with the project aside from its non-compliance with the environmental assessment that might put its status as substantially started in question.

“What’s not in question is that the location where they poured the concrete is not where thy proposed to pour the concrete in the master development agreement,” Reid said.

“They submitted the plans of what they were going to do and didn’t follow through because it’s too time consuming. They didn’t have the reserves to get a road in where they proposed to be put in the first place, but they don’t have tenure for the (current) spot.”

Reid added that despite previous reports the resort didn’t pour a foundation for the day lodge, but floating sub floors that could eventually be used to construct the foundation for a building.

“Basically, they knew that October 12 was coming so they slapped something together in the closest place they could find . . . and crossed their fingers,” he said.

“To me it’s pretty unimpressive and if the B.C. government goes along with this ruse, B.C. taxpayers are going to be pretty disappointed in the kind of environmental enforcement they’re demonstrating.”

“Justice requires that the project goes ahead . . .”

When asked if he felt the non-compliance findings would deal a blow to his project, Oberto Oberti said little could stand in the way of Jumbo’s progress.

“ . . . I do not believe that anything could ‘deal a blow to the project’ after 24 years of work on all aspects of the project, and responding as well and as promptly as possible to all requests of the people in charge of the approval process,” Oberti said.

“Simply put, justice requires that the project goes ahead, and it is going ahead.”

Oberti added that he feels the way forward for Jumbo should be easier from this point.

“My understanding and expectation is that the project should now go ahead a little faster than in the past 24 years,” Oberti said.

“But I cannot speak for the government, nor can I say how many legal challenges are going to be tried by project opponents to slow down the progress for this project.”