Last week, the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort hit a major roadblock when Environment Minister Mary Polak determined the project was not substantially started.
That determination means that the Environmental Assessment Certificate expires, and that the proponents must restart the process of going through all the necessary approvals should they wish to continue.
In a press release from the Ministry of Environment, Polak made her decision by focusing on the physical activities that had taken place at the project site. In this case, the minister determined that the physical activities undertake on the various components did not meet the threshold of a substantially started project.
Norm Macdonald, NDP MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke, noted that the decision was a huge victory for Columbia Valley residents.
“I’m very, very pleased and relieved,” Macdonald said. “Minister Polak insisted all along that she would make this decision in a fair manner and she’s done that.”
Though the proposed project is in an adjacent riding, Bill Bennett, the Liberal MLA for Kootenay East, said that he accepts the decision but hopes that the region doesn’t lose the project.
“There will be less and less snow at low elevations from now on and JGR would be the only high elevation ski resort in B.C,” said Bennett. “At the end of April, there was over a meter of snow on the valley floor. What other Kootenay resort can say that? It is up the proponent to decide if it is worth starting over.”
Macdonald said the next step must be the removal of the resort’s municipality status, which it was given in November 2012, along with a government-appointed mayor and council.
“The creation of the Jumbo Resort Municipality was always a tremendous waste of public resources. It should be dissolved immediately,” Macdonald said. “It was always an abomination to the real democratic process.”
Greg Deck, the mayor for the Jumbo Glacier Resort, said he was disappointed in the decision, in an interview with the Invermere Valley Echo.
“I would presume that the proponent will be meeting with the province to understand more fully the rational and the options, but I am not party to that process,” Deck said.
Macdonald also noted that the work used to demonstrate the project’s substantially started status needs to be removed.
“When the proponent began to lay concrete slabs, the point we made was, is the government sure the proponent has the capacity to remove the mess they made? So now the Ministry needs to insist that happens so the valley can be returned to the state it was in,” Macdonald said.
Both Wildsight and the Wilderness Committee, two organizations that opposed the project, applauded the decision in separate press releases when it was announced on Thursday.
The Ktunaxa Nation Council is also appealing a judicial review that went in favour of the provincial government in April. As of press time, it is not known what impact the case will have on the future of the proposed project.
Jumbo Glacier Resort is a proposed year-round ski resort development in Jumbo Valley, 55 kilometres west of Invermere.
With files from Carolyn Grant and the Invermere Valley Echo