When B.C.'s NDP government passed the Environmental Assessment Act late last month the new law made it much tougher for large projects, like ski resorts, to go ahead with major construction and development plans.
According to Ray Crook, project assessment director for ski resorts at the newly created B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, any new ski resort proposals and "major expansions" of existing resorts will be subject to the new review process.
"Our act creates a process, it doesn't create rules," says Crook. He adds the Forest Practices Code is the set of rules resort expansions will have to go by.
Crook says 11 B.C. ski resorts have submitted master plans which will not be subject to the review. They are Whistler, Blackcomb, Hemlock Valley, Sun Peaks, Silverstar, Big White, Apex Alpine, Kimberley, Fernie Snow Valley, Powder King and Panorama. Any other ski resorts in B.C. will have their master plans subjected to the Environmental Assessment Act.
Even the resorts which had their master plans grandparented will have to subject any "substantial" changes in those master plans to the review process.
The Jumbo Creek Ski resort proposal and Al and Nancy Raine's proposed resort at Cayoosh Creek, have entered into the new environmental review process.
Under the act there are three possible stages in any environmental assessment: application review, project report review and public hearing. Most projects will require only the first two stages to reach decisions on whether or not they can proceed.
The process could take from 12 to 30 months to complete, including at least three months for proponents to prepare project reports.
Crooks says the new assessment will open up more room for public input, especially on ski resort proposals.