Proposed Squamish ski resort back in EA process 

Environmentalists look for ways to stop Garibaldi @ Squamish

It's been more than a year since the province issued a moratorium on the Garibaldi @ Squamish ski resort development to allow the proponents time to conduct a more detailed water study. That study was presented to the public at an open house in Squamish on June 24, leaving just over three weeks for people to register comments at the provincial Environmental Assessment Office.

But while progress has been delayed at the provincial level since spring of 2008, the project has been moving ahead on other fronts - notably in the form of physical and economic-impact studies requested by the District of Squamish, and the master development plan required by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts.

Mike Esler, president of Garibaldi @ Squamish, is doubtful that the project could have shovels in the ground before 2011, even with approval from the Environmental Assessment Office. This week he provided a snapshot of where the project currently stands.

"The main reason (the environmental assessment process was suspended) was that we wanted more water data collected and it took a year to do that, and another while to get it modeled for various stakeholders and government officials," Esler explained. "The purpose of the open house is to restart the EA process and present that new information and reports that we've done related to the master plan, which is a concurrent process."

The public comment period on the ski resort's EA certification application wraps up on July 19, after which the project is within a legal timeframe. The Environmental Assessment Office will have 17 days to prepare a report for the Ministry of Environment and tourism ministry, which will have 45 days to accept or reject the application. Esler is hoping for good news in late August or early September.

That still leaves a lot of work. The master plan process is winding up with the tourism ministry, Esler says, and could be complete in November or December of this year. With approval he can move ahead with next steps with a conditional agreement from the province.

The next big obstacle is the governance issue. The ski resort proposal on Brohm Ridge and around Cat Lake straddles the District of Squamish and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, and the developers would like to see the entire resort within District of Squamish boundaries.

"That would entail annexation and Official Community Plan amendments, and rezoning," he said. "That process just started in earnest in the last month or so, and could take arguably a year or longer."

That step requires a greater level of detail, including working drawings of the resort, neighbourhood, golf courses, and other amenities. If the project reaches buildout, which proponents say will take at least 20 years, it will include up to 1,200 hectares of skiable terrain serviced by 20-plus lifts, two 18 hole golf courses, a trail network and 5,739 housing units (including 1,700 hotel units).

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