Garibaldi at Squamish Gets Environmental Assessment Certificate

Environment Minister Mary Polak and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson have issued an environmental assessment certificate to Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. for the Garibaldi at Squamish project (GAS).

The decision was made after considering a review led by British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office. A record of the factors that the ministers considered in making their decision can be found in the Reasons for Ministers’ Decision at:

There are 40 conditions that are attached to the environmental assessment certificate, the province announced. The conditions include:

  • limit the rate of groundwater withdrawal from the Paradise Valley aquifer;
  • monitor daily water consumption and the levels of the aquifer and develop a web-based tool to allow live public access to this information;
  • complete a study that determines potential adverse effects from the construction and operation of groundwater pumping on the sidechannels of the Cheakamus River, which are important salmon spawning habitat;
  • retain the services of a qualified person with demonstrated experience and knowledge of environmental monitoring for construction projects in B.C., prior to construction;
  • complete a Biodiversity Retention Environmental Management Plan to address potential impacts on vegetation and wildlife;
  • complete a Brohm River Management Plan to ensure the project does not affect that sensitive river;
  • avoid and reduce risks of potential bear-human conflicts and ensure that Garibaldi at Squamish achieves “Bear Smart” status or equivalent designation by no later than the first anniversary of the commencement of operations; and
  • provide at least 10% of the resort bed units as employee housing to address adverse effects from potential increases in housing costs and shortages of rental accommodation in Squamish.

In addition, Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. proposed a number of design changes during the environmental assessment, based on feedback received during the process, including:

  • changing the water supply from surface water to groundwater;
  • removing golf courses from the overall project;
  • removing development near Cat and Brohm Lakes, which are important recreational areas to residents of Squamish; and
  • eliminating water reservoirs, with the exception of a snowmaking reservoir.

The environmental assessment certificate decision is the first in a series of decisions and approvals necessary for the Project to proceed. Some of the other significant approval steps the Garibaldi at Squamish project must complete before it can proceed include  potential boundary expansion decision by the District of Squamish should the project reside within the district, amendment to Regional Growth Strategy and approval in principle from either the district of the SLRD.
GAS  is a year-round destination mountain resort community that would include ski lifts, trails (ski and multi-use), resort accommodation and housing units, guest services, public amenities, and groundwater supply and infrastructure. The overall project area would be 2,759 hectares.


  1. Matt Parker says:

    First, I’d like to thank Gagandeep for continuing to follow this story and keep us informed with objective, unbiased, fact-based reporting. Personally, I haven’t been in favour of this proposed development in the past. The recent proposed design changes including the removal of the golf courses and the reduced proximity to Cat Lake and Brohm Lake have significantly addressed concerns that I had with the original plan. I’d still like to see the proponents prove that the operation would be a successful ski hill and is not just a real estate development. Opinion’s aside, thanks for keeping us informed.

  2. Dave Colwell says:

    -I wish them luck
    -But IMO they should go on their own and not rely on the Squamish District for infrastructure and services….no more that Whistler does.
    Our budget is stretched and the outcome of their business plan has too many uncertainty’s regarding climate change, water supply etc. In my opinion they are no more than a cloaked housing development set in a fog prone, low snowfall area with many looming restrictions related to wildlife and the adjacent park. They have been trying to put their foot in the door for decades but they should realize all the issues.
    – However I am too old to see this come to full fruition anyway :-)

  3. Matt Blackman says:

    I found it interesting that the Squamish Chief editor called for a leadership change in her editorial diatribe entitled “Wanted: Strong leader for Squamish.” My comment on the website challenging her to show her homework and offering the serious and still unresolved challenges to the project were promptly deleted.

    What is not stated her missive is the fact that this mayor and council have approved the Waterfront Development which is a huge win for the pro-development contingent and a move that will bring thousands of medium to long-term jobs to our town to build new businesses, much needed new housing, education campuses and a host of other amenities, and what about the Cheekye Fan and a number of other developments for which the mayor and council have shown support despite the many challenges they pose?

    As for Garibaldi at Squamish, there are a number of issues that still need to be addressed. Let’s not forget that proponents have been pushing this development for at least three decades and each time the proposal was turned down.

    If GAS is to move forward, here are a few of the challenges that will have to be addressed.

    1) Water – I read in a 2003 study commissioned by the proponents that the resort will use nearly half a million litres of water per day not including use by overnight guests etc (see below). Here is a quote from the report entitled “GARIBALDI AT SQUAMISH PROJECT CASP Master Plan EAO Additional Information Requirements
    Mountain Master Plan,”
    “Given Garibaldi Resort’s full build-out scenario, the resort’s mountain facilities will have a combined capacity – skiing guests and non-skiing guests – of 17,538 guests. Assuming a consumption factor of 26.5 litres per day (lpd) per guest, Garibaldi Resort will require approximately 464,744 lpd – at full build-out. This water requirement is just for the guests who frequent the mountain facilities and mountain-related buildings (e.g., day lodges, the clinic, daycare facilities, ski patrol, etc.). It does not take into consideration the water requirements associated with proposed overnight accommodations, the proposed four season village (i.e., restaurants, bars, laundry services, etc.), or other resort users.”

    As I understand it, all this water will come from one source – Paradise Valley. How sustainable is this especially if our climate warms and dries as forecasted?

    2) Climate and activities – GAS is being pitched as an alpine ski resort with year-round activities but no golf courses. Whistler has three lakes and rivers to offer for summer activities. What water bodies does GAS offer? Given the warming trend and proximity to the ocean, skiing conditions are expected to steadily decline. What recent studies have been done on the declining snow fall and warming trends which will continually push freezing levels higher?

    3) Risks – In any new development, there is risk. In this case, the projected cost is $3.5 billion. What happens if this development is started and the first phase completed and it does not attract the necessary ski visitors? Who will be left to complete services, maintain road and amenities? This risk must be considered by the DOS as it could be left holding the bag for these costs at taxpayer expense.

    It is easy to see why the proponent has worked so hard to push this through: it would provide them with the ability to buy cheap crown land (I heard one estimate of $5000 per acre), rezone it into everything from hotel to condo and commercial and then resell it for many times their original cost.

    It is the job of our elected representatives to weigh the pros and cons of any project proposal and determine if it is in the best interests of our community. Calling for a leadership change in just the first year of this administrations’s mandate is at best premature and at worst incredibly irresponsible.

  4. Matt Blackman says:

    Just realized I omitted something in the first paragraph above. It should read,
    “I found it interesting that the Squamish Chief editor called for a leadership change in her editorial diatribe entitled “Wanted: Strong leader for Squamish” over Squamish Council decision not to approve Garibaldi at Squamish in its latest iteration. My comment on the website challenging her to show her homework and offering the serious and still unresolved challenges to the project were promptly deleted.”