Jumbo build prompts public backlash

A report has revealed that the current construction at Jumbo Glacier Resort is within avalanche hazard zones.

A report has revealed that the current construction at Jumbo Glacier Resort is within avalanche hazard zones.

Dynamic Avalanche Consulting Ltd. of Revelstoke, a company that provides avalanche risk assessment and hazard mapping, prepared the report which indicated the cement slabs poured for the resort’s day lodge and additional service building were within those hazard zones.

Construction is currently halted at Jumbo while BC Environment Minister Mary Polak continues to determine whether the $600 million venue was “substantially started” in order to retain its Environmental Assessment Certificate, which expired on October 12, 2014.

A condition of the assessment certificate also notes that residential and commercial structures must be located completely outside avalanche hazard areas.

“The cement slabs are not only not a substantial start of a planned mega-resort, they are in clear contravention of binding Environmental Assessment conditions,” said John Bergenske, Conservation Director for Wildsight in a press release. “It’s clear to us that these slabs on grade, without foundations, were a last minute attempt by developers to show that ‘something’ had been done — a far cry from a substantial start … It’s time for the province to act in line with its own legislation and cancel the Environmental Assessment Certificate,” said Bergenske.

However, Jumbo project planner Tom Oberti said that the report has revealed nothing unusual for those in the industry.

“In a nutshell, there’s nothing new in terms of surprising information from the report and they’re playing fast and loose with the avalanche zone description,” said Oberti. “New mapping shows the day lodge is not in a red zone, it’s in a blue zone, which is the zone closest to the red zone. What this means is that you have to have an evacuation plan like when you do avalanche control and the building has to be closed to the public. They’re making a big deal about something that is not unusual and not unexpected.”

Oberti added that there are plenty of day lodges that are constructed in red zones, such as Sunshine Resort in Banff.

Unlike the day lodge, the service building — which was meant to house generators — is partially in a red zone. Due to this, the service building will be converted for storage and will store summer lifts while winter ones are in use.

“Functionally, there is no change except moving generators. The mapping is very close to what the mapping in the ‘90s showed and there are no real surprises show other than the new classifications which are a new way of mitigating risk that wasn’t in place in the ‘90s,” said Oberti.

Bergenske has stated that the “last minute attempt” on Jumbo’s part to demonstrate that work has substantially started as well as the avalanche risk should nullify their chances for certificate renewal.

“Given the serious concerns about building placement, compliance issues and the risk to public safety, this should be the final chapter in the story of this ill-fated real estate scheme,” said Bergenske.

Oberti however stated he is “confident” that that completed construction will substantiate a certificate renewal.

“All the basic elements to start the project are underway and we’re basically waiting for their determination,” said Oberti who listed the foundations for the day lodge, service building and first lift as well as a permanent bridge and road upgrades as the resort’s current works. “The longer they take, the more complicated it gets for this summer in terms of contracts and organization for construction,” he said.

Oberti said that should the decision come within the next few weeks, construction will resume this summer. Otherwise, building may not pick up until next year.