The provincial government has issued an environmental assessment certificate for a proposed ski resort near Squamish, B.C..
There are 40 conditions attached to the approval certificate for the Garibaldi at Squamish all-season mountain resort. However, the $3.5 billion project won't be complete for another 20 years.
"The next step for this project is to listen and work in cooperation with the community, local governments and other stakeholders to ensure that this project is done right," said Aquilini Investment Group vice president Jim Chu.
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The resort, 15 kilometres north of Squamish on Brohm Ridge, will include ski lifts and runs, and multi-purpose hiking and biking trails that will offer year-round activities.
It will also include a car-free village with housing, restaurants and shops linked to Squamish by transit.
Chu said the benefits of the project will include 4,000 jobs to operate the resort, 2,000 jobs to build it, millions of dollars in tourism-related activity and $49 million in tax revenue.
B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said the developer "responded well" to changes suggested by the Environmental Assessment Office.
"It's very rare that any project looks exactly the same at the end of the process as it did at the beginning. This is no exception," she said.
The project's design as an "all-season resort" was carefully thought-out, said Chu, considering factors like warm winters and low snow-levels experienced by local ski hills around Vancouver.
"We're aware of what's happening with resorts around North America and around the world," he said. "If winter rolls around and there's no snow, we're prepared for that."
First Nations on board
Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell said his community had been involved with the environmental assessment process for several years.
"We continue to ensure that environmental, cultural and spiritual values are being protected via our participation at the technical level," he said.
"It's a very sacred mountain to our people so we want to ensure that the flanks of that mount are being protected for continued cultural use of hunting, gathering ... all of the things that our members continue to enjoy as they've done for innumerable generations."
Campbell said part of the Squamish Nation's ongoing negotiations with the project's proponents also included ensuring its members would benefit economically from it as well — including employment, contracting, and revenue-sharing.
"By ensuring that those values are upheld in this project and that benefits are flowing to the nation, we felt that was a way to build relations and start correcting some of the past status quo of just simple marginalizing First Nations and having the province making these decisions on top of our rights and titles," he said.
The ski resort began the process of getting environmental approval nearly 20 years ago.
Since it was initially proposed, it has met with opposition from Squamish residents concerned about the resort's impact on what's long been considered to be a pristine wilderness and recreation area.
In 2009, opponents rallied against the proposal, saying the developers had not addressed issues ranging from public transit to the potential burden on medical resources.
Initial plans for the resort, originally priced at $5.2 billion, included two golf courses and additional housing near Brohm Lake. Chu said feedback from the public led the developers to eliminate those aspects.