Garibaldi at Squamish Looks at Paradise Valley Aquifer in New Plans

GAS enginner Chris Gallham addressed the audience as proponent Wolfgang Richter looks on. (Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman)

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Nov. 23, 2012

Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) proponents are back with a revised plans on at least one issue that held back their proposal for over two years:

Water supply.

At public information meeting at the Squamish Adventure Centre on Thursday, Nov. 22, GAS proponents laid bare new plans for sourcing water for the proposed ski resort on Brohm Ridge.

GAS has proposed a plan to extract groundwater from an aquifer at a site adjacent to the Cheakamus River.

It’s at a conceptual stage yet, but these three sites are on the south west corner of Paradise Valley Road, about 250 metres north of Tenderfoot fish hatchery, 15 kilometres from Squamish.

A test run begins in February, with a 12 inch test well drilled to120 feet on the site to determine flow.

They plan to extract 70.1 litres per second from the ground aquifer, a conservative number, said Chris Gillham, an infrastructure consultant for the project.

Gillham said at a low tide in Chekamus, the effect of such an extraction would be 1.2 per cent.

“That is considered insignificant, we are not taking anything from the river” he said.

There are also plans to have a water reservoir for making snow at the site.

“If we can pump at 70.1 litres per second, our demand is going to be a third of that, he said.

With water conservation and some extraction of surface water at the site, there will be enough water to use and store.

“We would have enough water to store,” he said.

Among other things, GAS has been panned by critics—and the EAO–for plans to build large reservoir dams to store water diverted from Brohm.

GAS now has now until June to submit the results of its water extraction test runs to the EAO office.

Gillham said the proponents realises the earlier proposal to extracting water from Brohm was led to opposition to the project.

Extracting water from the aquifer is a much more reasonable solution, he said.

The idea didn’t strike John Buchanan as too reasonable.

He said it was a costly, unsustainable solution, one that has the potential to harm fish in the Cheakamus River.

“I’m in a shock that they are planning to pull water out of the basin,” he said.

Janice Brown, a director with the project, said the project would be an “economic engine” for Squamish.

She said with Squamish fast becoming a bedroom community, GAS would help bring jobs closer to home.

It has the potential of becoming a partnership for the future economic development of Squamish, she added.

Wolfgang Richter said GAS is terribly ambitious but entirely possible

“We are not dead yet, we have a strong market, we have strong partners that will not roll over,” he said.

The current proposal is a four-season resort to be developed as a resort community similar on 3,238 hectares of Crown land on Brohm Ridge. The plan would have up to 21,922 residential and commercial units, along with two golf courses and 25 ski lifts.

Two years ago, the GAS proponents had also revived the idea of a 1997 proposal, which was to be built on 2,580 hectares, up to 13,000 bed units and a daily skier capacity of only 12,000.


  1. Wolfgang von Garibaldi says:

    Beyond, snow, slope and (access to) market, economic viability is should be one of the most considerations in the public approvals process for green lighting an All Seasons Mountain Resort development such as Garibaldi at Squamish: in order for the resort to become the beacon to the world it deserves it to be, showcasing the environmental values of the Province, the Sea to Sky Region and Squamish, the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of North America”, it is also critical we not only have a strong market and strong partners, but a strong community that will not roll over…

  2. Jeannie Bardach says:

    Provided this development does not negatively impact the residents of Paradise valley, that is: have provisions in place to provide clean, safe water to every household in the area, (and including the same for future development) in the event that our wells dry up. It should also have no negative impacts on fish and wildlife or to the environment including noise pollution. As long as such provisions/guarantees can be confirmed I would be in favour of this project as I feel it would put Squamish on the map bring much needed jobs and a larger tax base to the area.

  3. Dave says:

    Who will pay for the increases in services such as Fire, Police, Ambulance and Homeowner services like Waste collection etc.? It would naive to think that our existing services in the District would not be diluted. At the same time the cost to each of us would rise .
    The expected “benefits” will be cloaked in supposition until it is too late for all of us. How do we actually calculate these overal, bottom- line benefits?
    We need answers soon! Remember that the prime motivation of the developers is to fill their pockets ASAP and to slither by any environmental concerns we might have.

  4. Jessica Reid says:

    Water issues aside, no doubt this deal is a land-grab. The last proposal (the one rejected by the EAO in 2010) would have allowed the GAS investors to purchase Crowl Land at 5% of market value in exchange for building us a massive ski resort. With the current data on the decline in the ski industry, both locally and abroad, how is this a good deal for Squamish, or BC for that matter? Who is on the hook for all of the infrastructure if the GAS resort fails? Lack of water is only one a several major concerns with the GAS proposal.

  5. EM says:

    Oh mercy, enough with the sensationalizing misinformation campaign already! We live in an extremely wet environment, there will never be shortage of water. Look, you have this lady afraid that her well, in a mostly marshy valley bottom, might dry up. Do you see the vast amount of flow, every minute every day, coming out the Squamish Rivers?
    And yes, who is on the hook after the millions of dollars invested and jobs created results in creation of valuable infrastructure? No one! The infrastructure carries it’s own value, even if the original investor blows away. We should be so lucky to be left owning it. Nice houses on the mountain side will never be a losing venture, given the close proximity to Vancouver, highway, and growth trends.
    Accept that change occurs, you will be a happier person!

  6. Dave says:

    If we could be sure that those who you seem to support would pay their taxes to back up all services including the maintenance of all the expensive infrastructures and compensate us (SRD) for any environmental damage, we might be a little more receptive.
    I , unfortunately, have my doubts. Also, one of the ongoing blockings of this “White Elephant” venture is because the area is really not suitable for an ongoing Ski-Resort. Fog is a probem and the altitudes do not compare with Whistler or Backcomb. Really this is a real -estate, mass- housing motivated venture , pure and simple. It is to make a quick buck for the developers. I doubt that we will bask in pride down the road on this one.
    “Mostly marshy valley”?…a nice piece of alliteration but hardly acurate!

    • Nate Dolha says:

      Quick buck? The proponent is 15+ years into this, with likely the same amount of time to go…

  7. David Lassmann says:

    I asked Wolfgang Richter at the meeting what the minimum amount of residential development would be to make the project viable. He responded with 15,000. This is almost equal to the entire population of the District of Squamish at present. The District itself is already challenged to meet its infrastructure and servicing requirements. No solution has been found for dealing with our garbage stream. The District has already had to resort to ground water to supply the existing population. The Garibaldi at Squamish project looks like madness to me. How can it be expected to be sustainable? Where will the 15,000 minimun residents find employment? At Walmart and Canadian Tire?

  8. Jeff says:

    For all those that think that this is just a land grab, which it is not, what are your ideas for economic development in Squamish. The DOS has an aging infrastructure that is going to cost millions of dollars to bring up to standards. Do you think we should increase property taxes to pay for these required improvements?
    We, the collective of Squamish has the opportunity to have private money, in the billions of dollars come to Squamish and use the resources in the (area) as an economic stimulus. The development charges alone would drastically improve the DOS’s financial ability to provide for all residents of Squamish well into the future. Not to mention well paying jobs
    Too often there are individuals spouting off rhetoric that they have heard from others. Brohm Ridge is not prestige wilderness as it is made out to be. It has been clear cut, logging roads, an active rock quarry. Let’s use this area to create long term benefits for Squamish.

  9. Janice Brown says:

    Touche, Jeff! It is almost like ‘fear mongering’ without any solid understanding of both ‘how the process works’ and ‘how much leverage the DOS will have when it comes to zoning, rezoning, who pays for what, what is shared, etc.’ At the end of the day, the tax dollars stay in our community, jobs are created, and we all benefit from the ability to afford to upgrade our current infrastructure to higher standards. Not to mention, that having recreation that anchors winter as a season worth coming to Squamish for, will put us in a position to market ourselves as an ‘All Season Destination’ therefore truly living up to the brand ‘Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada.’

  10. EM says:

    Well Dave, you really don’t understand we have one of the best fresh water acquifer systems in North America here. It’s vast and the supply is plentiful.
    And regarding taxes. Obviously, the new home and business owners will be paying annual taxes once they move in. This is called expanding the tax base which is exactly what Squamish so desperately needs to do. The current infrastructure problems are simply due to a lack of planning and contingencies by previous councils when we actually did have substantial potential tax base from industry operating here. The mill closures have not made it easy for anyone to keep up, and that’s why we should be receptive to new ideas. And yes, a part of getting the resort approved is them agreeing to take care of various concerns; and I have every confidence the government will manage that appropriately through the EA approval process.

  11. Dave says:

    Yes E.M.
    It is your “confidence”. But the developers care little beyond their bottom line. The crux is, do you have confidence that all “the powers that be” will ensure that the tax issue will be to the benefit of us all on this one?
    They are dependent on:
    – A beneficial projected climate for a viable ski resort
    – A water supply that will not be environmentally damaging to either wildlife in all adjacent regions.
    And we are dependent on:
    – Competent planners who will not get all of us in the hole and pass along this “white elephant” to even worse, would be “saviors” who promise to drag us all out from our municipal debt.
    I still believe this to be a “Land Grab..Real Estate Grab” in its pure and stark light. And the proponents care little for our future in Squamish.

    • Craig Cherlet says:

      It’s inevitable that Squamish will expand and continue to grow with it’s proximity to Vancouver. It grew 14.8% since 2006 and if Squamish continues at this rate, there will be over 25,000 people in less than 12 years and possibly reaching 50,000 people in 25 years.

      Where will they work? People will get jobs locally as the need for essential services grows with the population. People could work for this resort, they will also work from home as the remote workforce increases. They will work in Whistler, North Vancouver, Vancouver and of course Squamish. What if Google or some other large employer moved an office here that employed 500 people making $100k/year+? It is possible. Who knows what the future holds. All we know for sure is that change is the only constant and we need to manage that change with our eyes wide open.

      Abbotsford which is actually further away from Vancouver than Squamish is, only had a population of 16,858 in 1956. Now almost 60 years later; there are over 133,000 people living there. Squamish & the Sea to Sky will be the next growth area within 100km of Metro Vancouver.

      Demographers and developers know this and that’s why this project proposes to build 15,000 residential units, the Oceanfront proposes to build 1100 units and South Britannia proposes to build upwards of 3000 units not to mention the many other smaller developments throughout the area.

      I for one support this project as a resort like this would be a great way to create jobs and drive tourism in the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada.