Master Development Agreement signed for Jumbo Glacier Resort

After years of debate the Jumbo Glacier Resort has received approval to go ahead.

After more than twenty years of debate the Jumbo Glacier Resort has received a go ahead from the provincial government.

After one of the most extensive review and consultation processes in British Columbia’s history, the Province has approved the Jumbo Glacier Resort Master Development Agreement, which allows the resort to proceed.

Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson made the announcement on his decision in Victoria on March 20.

“After more than 20 years of comprehensive and exhaustive reviews, it was time to make a decision. I approved Jumbo Glacier Resort’s Master Development Agreement after reviewing all of the relevant documentation, and meeting with both First Nations and the proponent,” Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Thomson added he felt this project  will spur local job creation and economic benefit while also upholding a responsible environment relationship.

This opinion is not shared by Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald who explained in a press release the project may not have a financial backer. “So this project has no support and no money, but the government is determined to try and force it through,” Macdonald said.

The fact that the announcement was made in Victoria rather than in Invermere has also bothered Macdonald who described it as being “very disrespectful” to the people in the area. “It would have been good manners to show up in Invermere and instead they chose to hide out far from here to make the announcement,” he said.

Thomson stressed at the announcement that there was no disrespect intended.

“This is a provincial decision that is important to all of the people of the province. It is one that has gone on for quite some time. I felt it was important to make it here with the provincial media to make sure the message was out provincially…this is certainly no disrespect to the people of the Kootenays in doing it here,” he said.

MLA for Kootenay East, Bill Bennett, said he hoped this would start healing in many communities where people have been debating the development for two decades.

“This project has, for over 20 years, divided Kootenay communities. I am grateful for a final decision. I thank the Minister for making it and Premier Christy Clark for creating an environment where tough decisions can be made. No matter which side of the debate you’re on, the majority of folks in the East Kootenay will be relieved by the certainty,” said Bill Bennett, MLA for Kootenay East.

As for the suggestion that the announcement should have been made in Invermere, Bennett stressed the right decision had been made to hold the announcement in Victoria.

“Norm Macdonald suggested we should have done the announcement in Invermere and while I respect the fact that is his home territory, his riding, I think what you would have ended up with a thousand  people on either side of the street. You would have had proponents shouting how much they support it and you would have had a thousand people on the other side of the street shouting why is shouldn’t happen. You would have perpetuated the sort of dynamics that has existed in communities,” Bennett said. “We have had enough of that and we really want to get on with life, regardless of what side of this thing you are on.”

Glacier Resorts Ltd. received an Environmental Assessment Certificate for Jumbo Glacier Resort in 2004, which included 195 commitments to mitigate environmental impacts. The resort master plan was approved in 2007. The Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will pursue the establishment of a large wildlife management area to protect Grizzly bear habitat.

Macdonald said the announcement changes nothing.

“People in the Columbia Valley have been absolutely clear. They feel strongly that building a resort in this area does not make sense,” said Macdonald.  “It doesn’t make sense environmentally or economically, and putting the BC Liberal stamp of approval on it doesn’t change a thing.”

Macdonald who was in Invermere on the day of the announcement said people had been coming up and expressing how upset they are over the decision.

This opinion was not shared by everyone.

Rose-Marie Regitnig, president, Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce said, “The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce is pleased that a decision around Jumbo Glacier Resort has finally been made. We believe that over 20 years of indecision by three different governments was negatively impacting our communities. While we recognize that not all individuals will be pleased with the decision we do look forward to working with our members on the opportunities that this decision will present. It is our objective to help our members grow and develop their businesses in both an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.”

Bennett felt it was important to show respect to everyone who has been involved with the debate over the years.

“I respect the fact that there are very diverse views about this project. I respect the opposition. I respect the support. But I can tell you unequivocally that the people in the East Kootenay will be happy that we finally have some certainty around this and we can start to heal,” Bennett said.

In his opinion, Macdonald explained that this decision was going to do nothing to help heal the area and will in fact “complicate matters” in the short term.

“If you look at every opportunity that has been taken to test the opinion of people here in the community, it has been six or seven to one against the project. A thousand on one side maybe but you just cannot find the support on the other,” Macdonald said. How would he know he doesn’t know the community. He just doesn’t know it.”

The resort could be North America’s only year-round, glacier-based ski resort. The resort will be in the Purcell Mountains, 57 km west of Invermere, on the site of an old sawmill.

The master development agreement specifically laid out the terms and conditions where the resort could be developed.

“It is going to be one place in B.C. where they can go up a cable car, look down into the lake of the hanging Glaciers and see something that is just out of this world because it is so beautiful,”