The decision to determine whether the Jumbo Glacier Resort “substantially started” its construction prior to the expiry of its Environmental Assessment Certificate has been delayed following a request from the Environmental Assessment Office in regards to the location of a day lodge that may be at risk of avalanches.
Autumn Cousins, manager of policy and compliance, wrote a letter to Oberto Oberti, president of the Pheidias Project Management Corp, the project management company for the resort, regarding concerns over the day lodge.
“As you are aware, concerns have been raised whether the locations of the Day Lodge and the service building which Glacier Resorts Ltd. recently began to construct are in compliance with condition 36 of the Environmental Assessment Certificate for the Jumbo Glacier Resort Project,” the letter reads.
Condition 36 states that: “Residential and commercial structures will be located completely outside the avalanche hazard area.”
Last month, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan asked Environment Minister Mary Polak to withdraw Jumbo’s permit, asserting that the day lodge is located within a Class 4 avalanche zone.
But according to Tomasso Oberti, vice-president of Pheidias, the day lodge is actually just outside of an avalanche zone and its proximity to such a zone is a common occurrence in ski resort construction.
“The day lodge at Jumbo Glacier Resort is not in an avalanche zone,” said Oberti. “It is, however, close to an avalanche zone, so the province has asked the proponent to do an updated avalanche zone study for the day lodge.”
Oberti added, “It is not unusual for day lodges to be in avalanche zones in British Columbia. The day lodge at Whitewater near Nelson is one that comes to mind. Any danger is mitigated by avalanche control and temporary closures of the affected facilities.”
In Peter Schaerer’s November 26, 2014 report regarding the snow avalanche hazards at Jumbo he states that, “Although no damaging avalanche has reached the lodge site, a larger [avalanche] than had occurred in the past or an avalanche with an irregular flow direction could hit the lodge.”
Schaerer states that upon building the lodge, avalanche control via explosives are “essential to prevent the formation of large avalanches” at pathways close to the lodge.
One such pathway is the Pink Panther, which was the location of an avalanche in 2009 that sent 10,000 tonnes of snow down the run.
Cousin’s letter concludes that an engineering avalanche risk evaluation is “necessary to ensure the locations of any commercial and residential buildings are compliant with condition 36.”
Oberti, meanwhile, is “confident” that the delay will not hurt Jumbo’s development in the long run.
“It’s disappointing that there is yet another delay in construction but construction won’t be sidelined for long,” he said.
According to Oberti, the request will likely halt Jumbo for a few more months. Following the conclusion of Jumbo’s compliance with condition 36, focus will return to the “substantially started” decision when the EAO provides a final report to Polak.
Jumbo was first granted its environmental certificate in 2004 and was then renewed in 2009. That extension expired October 12 of this year.
In addition to the substantial start criteria that must be considered; two environmental groups stepped in last month, raising concern if Glacier Resorts’ violation of its certificate by not conducting proper water testing prior to construction were sufficient enough to invalidate their certificate.