G@S opponents look beyond environmental assessment 

Many questions to be answered before proposed ski resort is approved

The fact that the Environmental Assessment process for the proposed Garibaldi @ Squamish resort has resumed does not worry Catherine Jackson of the Squamish Environmental Conservation Society. In fact, she believes there is a good chance that the project will get approval from the provincial government despite the outflow of negative letters during the public consultation process.

"The process is really quite interesting," she said. "The Environmental Assessment Office has never refused an environmental assessment certificate in their history - although often they've required a proponent to supply so many studies and such extensive information that they'll give up.

"But just because a project gets an environmental assessment doesn't mean it goes ahead, just that the ministry has decided the land is suitable with certain conditions. I won't be surprised if that's the result."

That's not to say that Jackson is conceding anything at this point. She is urging everyone opposed to the project to write a letter to the EAO before the public input period closes on July 19.

If the assessment is approved she says the resort project - which includes two golf courses, over 5,700 homes, and a ski resort on Brohm Ridge - still has to pass a lot of hurdles before becoming a reality.

For one thing, the proponents would prefer to build the resort within the District of Squamish for various reasons, which will require a boundary expansion and significant zoning.

"When the District of Squamish gets involved is really when the community will have to make it known what their choice is, whether to go ahead or not. That's really the choice point that will decide whether this project goes ahead," said Jackson.

With the project on the front burner again, Jackson and Jessica Reid of Save Garibaldi addressed the district council on Tuesday night, laying out a long list of concerns.

There are numerous reasons why Jackson and Reid oppose the project, and not all of them are related to concerns about the environment.

Among other things, Jackson questioned whether Brohm Creek was a sufficient water source to service 22,000 beds and up to 15,000 skier visits per day. She was also concerned about Steelhead populations if creek levels are reduced by the resort, as well as the future of 17 other listed species found in the proposed development area.

Jackson also said that Squamish residents need more information about the plan: "What happens if things go wrong, if they get less skier visits than they anticipate, if the developers go bankrupt or can't sell the real estate - what are the taxpayers on the hook for? Roads? Sewage? What about the hospital, transit, fire? All these are questions where we need to know the answer to make a reasonable informed decision."

So far she says she has 1,750 signatures on a petition against Garibaldi @ Squamish.

For her part Reid pointed to an economic impact study on backcountry visits and recreational values in the area.

"They need zoning and (Official Community Plan) amendments and if we don't give it to them it stops... How do we stand up in the face of this monstrosity?"

Although council doesn't typically debate following presentations, councillors did discuss the issue.

Councillor Corinne Lonsdale pointed out that the project could still go ahead even without with support of the District of Squamish.

"The province could still designate the area as a new animal they created a few years ago, as a mountain resort," she said.

Councillor Paul Lalli said the community should wait for the financial impact study and socio-economic studies - funded by the proponents but conducted by the District of Squamish - before making any decisions.

Mayor Greg Gardner pointed out that over 90 per cent of the proposed resort area was currently outside district boundaries, and suggested that a lot of public consultation will be held before there is any kind of boundary expansion, rezoning or changes to the Official Community Plan.

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