MELVIN CK/CAYOOSH RESORT,
EA [Environmental Assessment] PROJECT COMMITTEE CHAIR.
SPEC'S RESPONSE TO NGR RESORT CONSULTANTS INC. (NGR) DECEMBER 1,
AND DECEMBER 9, 1999 RESPONSES TO SPEC'S NOVEMBER 22, 1999 SUBMISSION TO
THE ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT OFFICE (nine pages).
We would like to thank the Chair for kindly and officially including our submission to the Environmental Assessment review process, and the acknowledgment by NGR's December 1 initial letter of response that the Project Committee receive these comments. We believe that the Chair received our comments to accommodate legitimate and serious concerns we have raised with respect to grizzly bears and cumulative effects in the greater Melvin/Cayoosh ecosystem. We also believe that there are aspects to the early history of this ski development proposal that have more to do with political concessions (we have correspondence to demonstrate this) than complying with the original concerns about wildlife conservation issues from biologists with the Ministry of Environment in the early to mid-1990s.
We believe that our concerns about grizzly bears have great merit, considering the correspondence and report history with the Ministry of Environment. Because of this, we disagree with the proponent's implied suggestion that the information in our submission is not "deserving of fuller public consideration", and is merely a collection of "dissenting opinions".
I must comment that I find a number of Mr. Raine's remarks about our November 22, 1999 submission disturbing, and I feel that it is important to respond because the nature of his letter seems to discredit us. During the previous month, I have conducted research on the history of this project since its inception in 1990, and I have no difficulty at all, now, in responding to Mr. Raine's comments. Consequently, it is not our credibility that is in question.
We have identified five main issues that Mr. Raine has presented to
you in his December 9, 1999 letter regarding our November 22, 1999 submission,
which we would like to respond to.
#1. With regard to our concerns about the designation of Melvin Creek and the adjacent Lost Valley Creek as Areas of Interest (AoI) under the Protected Areas Strategy (PAS), related concerns about Cabinet intervention, and Mr. Raine's' claims that NGR had first and ongoing dibs on Melvin Creek prior to the candidacy for protection under PAS.
According to government files, NGR pulled out of the initial project review process with formal notification by Nancy Greene Raine to Premier Harcourt on April 20, 1993:
"It is with great regret that I inform you that Al and I have decided to stop working on our proposed ski resort at Cayoosh near Lillooet".The Kamloops Crown Lands Development Officer wrote the following on the very next day:
"As per the April 15, 1993 letter from the Raine's to Ministers Cashore, Zirnhelt and Marzari, the BC Lands Thompson-Okanagan office understands that NGR Resort Consultants Inc. has abandoned the Cayoosh Ski Project for a variety of reasons." "We also note NGR's concern regarding the BC Environment position on this project. It appears reasonable to say that there is a good chance that Fish and Wildlife Branch will not approve the final wildlife studies." "It is clear to NGR and BC Lands that the project is not economically feasible under the new commercial alpine ski policy. Based on the alteration to the old policy demanded by NGR during the interim agreement negotiation process, it is apparent that the project is also not feasible under the old policy." "We therefore have definite concerns regarding the overall viability of the ski project, and would be reluctant to encourage NGR to continue." "We therefore recommend that BC Lands accept abandonment of the project. Given the project's high development cost and potential environmental conflicts, it appears inappropriate to re-offer the opportunity." (Peter Walters, Development Officer, Kamloops Crown Lands, to Nadine Derick, Operations Assistant, Crown Lands Operations Division, April 21, 1993.)On April 27, 1993, the Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks, Hon. John Cashore, wrote the following to NGR:
"I regret that you will not be proceeding with the project, and I appreciate that you have taken the time to detail your concerns. Given the project's high development cost and potential environmental conflicts, it is unlikely that the Province will re-offer the opportunity to study the ski potential of Melvin Creek. Therefore, the Province cannot accept your kind offer to provide your studies and research at cost." (Letter from Hon. Minister John Cashore, Environment, Lands and Parks, to Al and Nancy Raine, April 27, 1993.)April 20, 1993, the day of the Raine's abandonment of the Cayoosh ski resort proposal, also happened to coincide with the Regional Protected Areas Team's inclusion to designate the Melvin Creek watershed as an Area of Interest on their official maps. NGR did not officially re-enter the process until sometime in early 1994 (after February). Mr. Raine has failed to mention this fact to you in his letter. In this regard, Mr. Raine fails to mention this critical information in his time line provided to you on page 3 of his December 9, 1999 letter. Why has Mr. Raine avoided discussion or to include this information to the Project Committee, after building up his case about prior rights at some length, is my question to the Chair?
"Al Raine (NGR Resort Consultants Inc.) advised in writing on April 15, 1993 of his intention to abandon his investigations of the feasibility of a ski resort near Cayoosh and Melvin Creeks, southwest of Lillooet." "On September 1, 1993, Al Raine advised Jack Hall that, upon further reflection, he had decided not to pursue the venture. He cited several reasons, including: 1. Lack of demonstrated tangible interest and commitment from government; 2. Aboriginal land claim issues; 3. Environmental issues; and 4. General concern about the current and future state of the economy. (Summary report, Crown Lands Operations, Victoria, February 24, 1994)
Though Mr. Raine may not have had access to government files, such as the proceedings of the Inter-Agency Management Committee, which he refers to, which I myself have not had access to, a Committee which were given instructions by Cabinet to remove Melvin as an AoI, he was more than aware of the issue at the time. According to Mr. Raine, he states in his letter that:
"For the record, NGR was never informed by BC Lands or the RPAT that there was an interest in ‘protected area' designation over the Melvin Creek area," and that "NGR was informed sometime in late 1994 by Ainsworth Lumber that a committee was proposing ‘protected area' status over upper Melvin Creek."In fact, Crown Lands was clearly in contact with Mr. Raine about this issue when NGR came back into the process sometime in early 1994, because the RPAT proposal was creating a new conflict for NGR and the Crown Lands agency:
"Re: Protected Areas Strategy. Message: We're told that no decision has yet been made on inclusion of Melvin Creek. Our opposition to the inclusion has been noted; it is now a Ministerial decision." (Fax from Peter Walters, Kamloops Crown Lands Development Officer, to Al Raine, May 11, 1994)It is clear that not only is this information at odds with Mr. Raine's statement about his prior knowledge of the PAS for Melvin, but it is also enlightening to note that without removing the PAS proposal, Mr. Raine or Crown Lands Marketing could not continue with the project.
Why, as Mr. Raine states on page 4 of his letter, should NGR be "alarmed" after spending "considerable time and money on the resort proposal" about the Melvin candidacy under PAS when NGR had officially removed itself from the process in April 1993? It is also invalid, knowing this, for Mr. Raine to suggest that NGR should be given "full compensation" of "expenses and lost opportunity" for a "pre-emptive land use proposal" after he pulled out for reasons unrelated to RPAT. The above letter from Hon. John Cashore, April 27, 1993, also states that the government would not be picking up his tab previous to that date.
Therefore, the Melvin Creek watershed, as a candidate under PAS, could not, as Mr. Raine states, "have been in conflict with BC Lands' June 24, 1991 public proposal call and the Controlled Recreation Area reserve" if Mr. Raine had officially removed himself from the process. That is why there would not have been, as Mr. Raine states, "two conflicting land use proposals being presented by two different government agencies". After NGR pulled out of the process, political pressure came to bear, by Lillooet Town Council, newspaper articles, and the local MLA, to assist Mr. Raine back into the process. It is clearly in Mr. Raine's interest to gain political support for his ski project, which he obviously accomplished. Just because the proponent has committed "hundreds of thousands of dollars to environmental studies", does not grant the proponent rights to anything, a matter which the proponent must surely be aware of.
Mr. Raine refers to our comments about Cabinet intervention as nothing more than theories about "conspiracy interventionism." What we do know is that Mr. Raine has repeatedly met with MLAs and Cabinet members who consequently provided avenues to remove Melvin as an Area of Interest under PAS. For instance:
"In the Spring of 1993, we stopped work on the project after encountering difficulties in negotiating an acceptable agreement with Crown Lands. In late 1993, we met with Minister Clark and the Premier who assured us that the Province wishes to encourage projects like Cayoosh. On May 12th 1994, we met with Minister Clark whose Ministry is now taking the co-ordinating role in developments of this nature. We were very encouraged by the new attitude of cooperation, and we will now try to resolve many of the inevitable hurdles which face a project of this magnitude." (Letter from Al Raine to Hon. Andrew Petter, Minister of Forests, May 20, 1994.)SPEC believes it is critical to have access to comprehensive information regarding this ski development project, information which extends beyond the initiation of the Environmental Assessment review in 1996, and back to 1990. Without this information, which has not been made accessible to the public in the satellite repositories, the public is at a distinct disadvantage, and it is obvious that the public cannot make a good case without this information. Such information, for instance, would have noted NGR's withdrawal from the public process in April 1993, or the Melvin as an Area of Interest under PAS, or the August 31, 1990 Kamloops Regional Environment's objections at the very beginning of the referral process, or the Kamloops Crown Lands' refusal to take the advice of the Regional Environment office, and not move it to another location, etc. Because of this lack of information, SPEC believes that the public process has been at a disadvantage, despite the fact that the Environmental Assessment Office is no doubt in compliance, procedurally, with the Act. When the process was moved from the review process under the old Canadian Alpine Ski Policy (which Mr. Raine was a part architect of), to the Environmental Assessment Office review process in 1996, all of the relevant Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks' information and files should have been automatically duplicated and transferred to the EAO process, synthesized, and made available to the public in some form.
"Mr. Koop has advanced the conspiracy intervention theory and suggested that the proponent used political pressure to compromise due process." "This is in keeping with the proponent's EA experience to date where many of the objections to the project application have come from individuals who contract professional services either for the Ministry of Environment, Parks or a protected area agency review task force. Mr. Koop's access to government files without conducting a ‘Freedom of Information' request is alarming. Is it possible, that a government employee who disagrees with decisions made by Government is providing information to SPEC?"The source of the letter from LUCO of May 4, 1995, which SPEC provided in its submission, and which documents Cabinet's decision to remove Melvin Creek as a candidate for protection under PAS, has, amusingly, nothing at all to do with the accusation presented by Mr. Raine, a source who is quite ‘innocent' in this matter. We are, of course, extremely grateful for having received it. This is a public review process, and we haven't received any information that hasn't been freely available to all parties. Is all information subject to Freedom of Information requests? Is it possible that Mr. Raine may be drumming up his own "conspiracy theory" about government staff in order to promote his own interests? The reason Mr. Raine is uncomfortable is that government staff have raised serious concerns about the ecological impacts associated with his ski development proposal.
Relatedly, it seems as though Mr. Raine has been somewhat impatient with regard to the Ministry of Environment's Fish and Wildlife initial objections on August 31, 1990, and ongoing concerns to the Melvin Creek ski proposal, and has resorted to making unpleasant critical remarks toward government staff in recent years. Having perused government files in recent weeks, through Freedom of Information requests, I have read enough of Mr. Raine's letters, and related comments, to understand that he has caused internal stress for a number of government employees with the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. These staff are highly principled professionals, who are either knowledgeable about local wildlife and the impacts that developments have on their inter-related populations, or those that are simply conducting business through proper procedures. This issue against government staff has also appeared in newspaper articles, some of which I have read, a history of which dates back many years. External political pressure borne upon staff who are simply doing their designated jobs, in a project review process that is obviously pivotal upon wildlife issues, should not have been tolerated by government agencies, and their staff should have been publicly defended.
SPEC has simply raised legitimate concerns over the fate of the local grizzly bear and mountain goat populations, and their long term viability, and has recently discovered more information presented by government staff over the last 10 years.
#3. Al Raine claims that the grizzly bear issue had been:
"addressed earlier in the process and thus, were not project specifications or requirements of the committee. The grizzly bear issue was reviewed by MELP and as I understood it, MELP was generally satisfied with the information provided earlier in the process...."I have, since the time of the November 22, 1999 submission, reviewed some Ministry of Environment files on this project. Grizzly bears have been a critical concern of the said Ministry since 1990, when the referral for this ski development proposal first arose. However, the emphasis on grizzly bears has recently been diluted, for reasons unknown to SPEC.
The 3 page update letter which SPEC sent to the Chair on December 22, 1999, and since to the Ministry of Environment Kamloops regional office, and to the Victoria Environmental Assessment branch (attached), details some of the additional concerns about grizzly bears not covered in our initial submission. Since that time, we have uncovered even more information which makes us uneasy about why grizzly bears have been relegated to the end of the line, so to speak.
When the ski development process for NGR was transferred to the Environmental Assessment Office in late 1996, considerations under this new process for wildlife concerns were summarized by the Ministry Environment in a 10 page report, dated February 11, 1997. That report detailed, among other wildlife considerations, specific concerns about grizzly bears and proper inventory procedures. For instance, the following concerns from that report:
"Key Issues: 1. Wildlife Inventory. * two species thought to be seriously threatened - Mountain Goats and Grizzly Bears."On December 9, 1997, the Chair of the Cayoosh Project Committee, representatives from Kamloops Fish and Wildlife, and Al Raine and his wildlife consultant, David Hatler met to discuss wildlife specifications for the Cayoosh project in Kamloops. According to notes taken by the Chair regarding grizzly bears, there was disagreement between David Hatler and Sandy MacDonald on the information and the proponent's procedural requirements. Because there were no field studies conducted on grizzly bears during the summer of 1997, the only information available to the EAO was from the proponent's wildlife report from LGL, which the Ministry of Environment had noted deficiencies regarding grizzly bears. The notes indicate, quite incredibly, that there may be enough anecdotal data to support developing a bear management plan from the LGL report itself. However, the notes quote Sandy MacDonald (Kamloops Habitat Section Head) stating that one "can't write a bear management plan without information on bear use in the area." According to the government files, there was a disagreement two months later between the proponent's consultant and the Fish and Wildlife staff because of each others interpretations regarding the proceedings of the December 9, 1997 meeting. The bottom line is that there was still no hard data conducted on grizzly bears and their movement corridors.
"Not enough information on mountain goat and grizzly bear habitat and use in, Melvin Creek Basin, Barkley Valley, Upper Lost Valley Creek, and Upper Downton Creek Valley."
"The proponent's consultants have in our estimation underestimated the use and value of Melvin Creek Valley by those animals."
"Given BC Environment's newly declared Grizzly Bear Management Strategy, there needs to be a better assessment made of the value of Melvin Creek to the grizzly bear population of the Cayoosh Range."
Accordingly, by May 7, 1998, Pat Shera corresponded with Sandy MacDonald stating that "it is my understanding that there is considerable concern that the existing population of grizzly bears may not reflect true carrying capacity and therefore we will be passing our recommendations on an assessment of bear habitat rather than population census." On March 8, 1999, Pat Shera, after assessing the preceding years, noted that:
"impacts to wildlife habitat have not been adequately identified, assessed, nor proven mitigation measures committed to which would reduce impacts on number of species to an acceptable level. This is especially important for mountain goats, grizzly bear, alpine species, riparian and wetland habitat. The analysis and conclusions on some of these issues misrepresent the data available and underestimate the likelihood of significant permanent adverse impacts."In contrast to this state of affairs, the Jumbo ski development project with the EAO has recently produced a large report on grizzly bears, which includes grizzly bear population census data breakdown. The obvious question to ask is: why is there such an inconsistency with regard to grizzly bear concerns and data production between one project and another, given the Kamloops Ministry of Environment's original and ongoing concerns about grizzly bears in this area, which is identified as one of the seven priority areas for grizzly bear recovery in British Columbia?
#4. The matter about project information from government files in the satellite repositories, where Mr. Raine questions whether the correspondence dated September 22, 1994 is actually in the files, is without substance. The September 22 letter, which is in the Vancouver Public Library EAO files, cites the August 15, 1994 letter, which Mr. Raine refers to, a letter which is not in the EAO repository. Mr. Raine, however, forgot to question the other government correspondence date in our submission (page 7) from that time period, June 29, 1994, which is also in the EAO files, which mentions the "political overtones" of the wildlife issue and the Ministry of Environment's concerns. Interestingly enough, the two pieces of related Ministry of Environment correspondence which this June 29, 1994 correspondence is preceded by and followed upon, is not in the EAO files, and should have been. They are as follows:
(a) "The occurrence of grizzly bears in Melvin Creek and the potential for resort related impacts on the population and bear/human conflicts are underestimated in the report. Contrary to conclusions made in the report that grizzlies are "very rare or absent in the Melvin Creek watershed (p.19), the guide outfitter for the area (Leo Ouellet) states that grizzly bear sign or sightings are observed on most trips in the fall (Sept/Oct) in Melvin Creek. There will be conflicts between grizzly bears and resort staff and clientele in Melvin Creek and adjacent areas which will have grave consequences for both bears and people." "The impact of thousands of hikers wandering through goat and grizzly summer ranges could be devastating to these animals if proper precautions and controls are not implemented. Displacement of animals during critical times to less desirable habitats could severely impact local populations." "In conclusion I must emphasize that the greatest impact from this resort development will not be from the facilities built in Melvin Creek itself but from the associated recreational activities taking place in adjacent watersheds. Of greatest concern are any activities involving helicopter transportation. The impacts on sensitive wildlife species (eg. goats, grizzlies) by helicopter landings, takeoffs and overflights and the introduction of thousands of visitors (hikers, campers, photographers, etc.) to previously inaccessible, remote areas will have significant impacts on some wildlife species." (June 28, 1994, Kamloops Ministry of Environment)#5. Helicopters (as mentioned on page 7 of our November 22 submission). The only occasion upon which I met and spoke with Al Raine, was, as he indicates, on November 24, 1999, during the Lillooet LRMP working group meeting on the Cayoosh watershed. During the meeting, I briefly brought up concerns related to cumulative effects for wildlife from the proposed project and future related developments around Melvin Creek and the Cayoosh Range. At the end of the meeting, I spoke with Mr. Raine privately about his mission statement, point #3,
(b) "I guess I took it for granted that Environment staff realized that this proposed development with its resultant activities would displace grizzlies and goats from the Melvin Creek watershed. Not only would they be discouraged from using the drainage as seasonal range but also migration patterns through the watershed between seasonal ranges in the north and south Cayoosh Range would be interrupted. In other words, we could write off Melvin Creek for goats and grizzlies in the Cayoosh." (July 4, 1994, Kamloops Ministry of Environment)
"Capitalize on the reliable snow image of British Columbia and the international success of Whistler Resort and BC's heli-ski operators"and pointed out that the grammatical structure of this sentence, with regard to "heli ski operators" was ambiguous, and obviously open to interpretation. I apologize for not including the entire sentence in my submission. However, this does not change the loose interpretation and meaning implied by using "BC's heli-ski operators".
For instance, I understand from government records, through Freedom of Information, that there is already some very recent interest in heli-ski and heli-hiking by a local helicopter business for areas in the vicinity of the Melvin Creek drainage. Possible indirect business relationships could theoretically be in the works, i.e., public submission #94 to the Environmental Assessment Office by Pemberton Helicopters, Patricia and John Goats, owners, in support of the project (February 25, 1997). Such a relationship may not directly involve the proponent, but may be a spin-off of the proponent's development proposal. In NGR's plan, under the mission statement, points 3 to 5, on page 2 of the Executive Summary (July 6, Project Report), the proponent anticipates attracting year round activities for "visitors traveling the Coast Mountain Circle Route." Other businesses would undoubtedly wish to tap into this proposed ‘tourism' potential.
Ministry of Environment have stated, repeatedly, their concerns about helicopters and wildlife disturbance in the greater Cayoosh area, since 1990:
"I have just had a request from Cascade Environmental Resource Group (formerly Geo- Alpine), for wildlife information in the Duffey Lake, Van Horlick, Blowdown Creek area, as part of a heli-ski/heli-hike tenure application by Pemberton Helisport Inc. [Pemberton Helicopters]." "The Wildlife Program has held a very firm position throughout the Environmental Assessment process with respect to NGR's Cayoosh Resort project application, that there be no commercial heli-related recreational activities outside Melvin Creek watershed, within the Cayoosh Range, which NGR has agreed to." "Consequently, the Wildlife Program will oppose any heli-sport applications within the Cayoosh Range which could potentially impact goats on critical winter and maternity ranges until the monitoring phase of the Cayoosh Resort is complete. This assessment will take approximately 10 years after resort startup [if it is approved]." "We cannot consider applications by other operators for similar services in the same general area which these conditions apply." "These proposed commercial helisport activities have a real potential to significantly impact wildlife populations, especially caribou, goats and grizzly bears, on critical ranges." (July 21, 1999, Kamloops Ministry of Environment)In addition, the Surrey BCAL office received an Tenure Application from Cayoosh Helisports Ltd. (principals Bruce Van Mook and John Goats from Pemberton Helicopters) on July 30, 1999, for heli-ski and heli-hiking, for an area just south of Mt. Joffre, northeastward through Van Horlick and Blowndown drainages, areas adjacent to Melvin Creek.
As such, Ministry of Environment staff have notified potential applicants that all proposals within the Cayoosh greater area will not be considered regarding the Cayoosh Resort proposal. Apparently, some geographical sections of the European Alps have passed strong legislation to prohibit helicopter activities in mountainous areas with regard to wildlife concerns (we are presently researching this issue).
In summary, we hope that the Chair and Committee considers our points carefully, and that the information we have provided helps to clarify our concerns about Mr. Raine's information. Thank you.
Sincerely, Will Koop.