Government ignores public opposition, approves Jumbo resort

The BC government’s approval of the environmental assessment (EA) for the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort is just the latest illustration of their contempt for public participation.

Cabinet approved the EA, despite the overwhelming opposition of a broad cross section of local residents, businesses, environmentalists and First Nations. Approximately 90% of the 12,000 submissions opposed the project.

Environmentalists and local residents are concerned because the resort is to be situated smack dab in grizzly habitat. They fear Jumbo could drain neighboring Invermere’s diversified economy as well forcing taxpayers to pay big dollars to subsidize new roads and infrastructure.

Many local businesses are also opposed. Businesses that rely on the region’s awe-inspiring wilderness are concerned that this mega-project will put local businesses into bankrupcy while enriching a few investors living abroad, or in far off Vancouver.

The proposed $450 million resort to the west of Invermere would be designed to service 2,000 to 3,000 skiers a day on four melting glaciers.

The frontman for the Jumbo proposal is Oberto Oberti, a Vancouver architect and developer who designed the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden. At this point there is no disclosure as to where the development money will come from, though proposals for Jumbo floated in the early 1990’s were backed by Japanese investors.

We recently revealed that Oberti’s Kicking Horse Project was eventually taken over by Ballast-Nedam. In our attempt to uncover the money behind Jumbo, we wrote to Ballast-Nedam and asked if they intended to invest in Jumbo. Ballast-Nedam responded by saying they “will not participate (and has not considered this) in Jumbo Glacier.” Our research into Jumbo’s potential investors will continue.

Despite the fancy photos of snow filled slopes, resort deveopment is not about recreation, but real estate development. So it’s not surprising that the developer-friendly Campbell government rubber stamped the project.

At the press conference announcing the decision Minister Abbott was asked how could ignore the overwelming opposition in the ‘public consultation process.’ He reportedly answered by saying, “surely I should understand that it was important to consider the minority opinion as well.”

In response to questions about studies by glaciologists indicating that if the Jumbo glacier continued to melt at the present rate, there would be no more glacier in 2 decades. Abbott answered, “that’s the proponent’s problem.”

Given the inevitable subsidies, its all of our problem. As a recent Canadian Business article on Jumbo recently indicated,

“A 2003 United Nations study concluded melting glaciers and reduced snowfall could soon render many ski resorts uneconomic in North America and Europe. In fact, many Swiss resorts have closed summer skiing due to glacial melt-out.”

British Columbians concerned about democracy and sustainability are angry about the approval, but other hurdles remain before the project starts construction, including:

  • re-zoning approval from the Regional District of East Kootenay; and
  • approval from Land and Water B.C.

The battle over Jumbo is just getting started. Local politicians have already stated opposition to the project, setting up a big hurdle to rezoning. However, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has already overridden the wishes of Fernie, another East Kootenay town, over the auction of coalbed methane rights in the Crowsnest Coalfield (browse our Energy news items and bulletins). And Land and Water B.C. is no better at listening to public concerns.

Dogwood initiative will continue to look into the moneymen backing the project. Visit our website frequently. We’ll let you know who the real people behind the project are.

For more discussion about Jumbo, read Government delays Jumbo decision

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