cayoosh meeting 

By Bob Barnett Al Raine figures he and the B.C. Federation of Mountain Clubs have the same goal, but at the moment they’re trying to keep each other from scoring. The BCFMC has concerns about Raine’s proposed Cayoosh Resort, in the Melvin Creek area, between Pemberton and Lillooet. What the BCFMC fears, according to Raine, is that approval of the Cayoosh Resort will lead to development throughout the Pemberton-Lillooet corridor. Raine has similar fears. "For this project to work, probably the province should be looking at the whole corridor," Raine said last week during a public information session at the Chateau Whistler. "It’s not in our interest to have the Pemberton-Lillooet corridor strip developed. We need regional planning." Raine’s vision for Cayoosh is an environmentally sensitive, world-class summer and winter mountain resort. At a higher elevation and further inland than Whistler, the resort would be less affected by coastal storms, resulting in dryer snow and more sunshine. Cayoosh would also be much smaller than Whistler. Thirteen lifts are planned at buildout, and the total number of beds would be approximately 14,000. Raine said last week Cayoosh has to be a destination resort from Day 1. "The critical mass has to be there, there’s no day-skier market." An independent assessment of the project completed earlier this year by Brent Harley and Associates found "The Cayoosh Resort, with an expected skier visit level of between 300,000 and 400,000 skier visits (Year 10), passes the test of being an economically sustainable ski area." But Raine said last week the project concept can’t be compromised. Cayoosh will work because of the ski and mountain experience it offers. In this respect his objectives are similar to those of the BCFMC. "One of my biggest fears is that B.C. Assets and Lands would issue someone a tenure for heli-skiing or heli-hiking in the range, then they’d probably make Cayoosh the base for the helicopter." Raine suggested some type of recreational zoning is what’s needed for the area. Raine has been working on his Cayoosh Resort proposal for the past nine years. In 1996 he submitted an application to the province’s Environmental Assessment office. In October of 1997 the EA review panel released "project specifications," which set out specific concerns to be addressed. Last July Raine submitted his "project report" which federal and provincial agencies agreed addressed those concerns. A technical review of project report is now underway. The multi-step EA process has an assessment period — to Oct. 12 — which included last week’s meeting at the Chateau. The Environmental Assessment Office will make a recommendation to the Minister of Environment Lands and Parks and Minister of Employment and Investment by Dec. 21 and the ministers will then have until Feb. 4, 2000 to accept or reject the proposal. If the Cayoosh project is issued an environmental certificate a business agreement with B.C. Assets and Lands would still have to be negotiated. Financing — approximately $100 million for an access road ($23 million) and all phase I lifts and accommodations — would also have to be secured. Raine estimated it would be three-four years after an environmental certificate is issued before the resort could open, "if there are no problems." "I thought the hard part was going to be raising the money. The hard part is getting the permits," Raine said. "We can’t even start to raise money until we have all the approvals." The resort’s impact on the mountain goat population has been one of the areas of concern. Raine’s consultant found several groups of goats in the Cayoosh Range which use a variety of habitats.. The consultant found the resort was not a threat to the critical winter and spring habitats, although goats do use the Melvin Creek drainage in the summer. "Our consultant doesn’t believe the resort is going to have a significant impact. The ministry has a different view," Raine said. "We’re motivated to keep (the goats) there." The other major issue confronting the Cayoosh proposal is First Nations claims to the land. The 11 bands of the St’at’imc Nation are conducting their own review of the resort proposal. An Aboriginal Affairs representative said he hopes to reach some understanding with the St’at’imc in the next few weeks.

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