Zincton Farms Limited is proposing an all-season resort development along London Ridge and Whitewater Ridge, just outside of New Denver, BC. “Zincton” is requesting 60-year tenure on 5,500 hectares of public land for a range of tourist activities, including skiing, hiking, and mountain biking, as well as the construction of a back country lodge in the alpine. The proponent’s adjacent private lands are integral to the project.
Resources to help you take action
Points to include in your letters and comments
Here are a few points you could include in your submission:
- Local and regional landscape level planning by government, in consultation with local stakeholders, is desperately needed for this New Denver-Kaslo corridor before any applications for development are allowed to proceed.
- This area is a critical wildlife corridor, connecting Valhalla, Goat Range and Kokanee Glacier Parks. It is core habitat for blue-listed grizzly bear, wolverine, mountain goat, and western toad (a federally listed species-at-risk). Alpine, subalpine, wetlands, and 39 creeks in the proposed development area make this is a sensitive area in need of conservation.
- As a treasured area important to locals and visitors who recreate, gather food, and hunt, it seems unjust to allow one developer to hold control over these cherished public lands. The Zincton proposal plans to attract about 1,300 visitors PER DAY to the area – an overwhelming increase in the impact to this land.
- Recreationists continue to get squeezed out by commercial interests. Multiple adventure tourism operators already have tenures in this area, resulting in increasingly limited public access.
- These lands are called Piq kiʔláwnaʔ – the Sinixt word for the rare White Grizzly. Canada and British Columbia have committed to truth and reconciliation, and BC has legislated the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Act (DRIPA). The approval of long-term tenures in the absence of First Nations’ approval is in direct violation of these commitments and law.
- The Zincton proposal will have a negative socio-economic impact on established local communities, as is demonstrated in studies on the effects of resort developments. Increased demand for seasonal real estate creates housing shortages and soaring property taxes, leaving full-time residents out in the cold.
- Tourism is not a saviour. All local surveys and research show that residents want to develop the region through attracting full time residents with innovative approaches that allow for a diverse, ecologically intact, and economically robust community.
The Wild Connection Review of Zincton Full Proposal
The Wild Connection has reviewed the entire Formal Proposal, including the environmental overview commissioned and paid for by the proponent. Our detailed review is presented below, but our conclusion is:
The Formal Proposal is basically an attempt to use the many intrinsic values of public Land to drive a real estate development on private land which would otherwise have relatively small economic value. Benefits to surrounding communities are vastly overstated. Potential environmental impacts are seriously downplayed. The tenure area is a critical corridor allowing wildlife to move around their traditional territories. It is home to many species, including a number on the Species at Risk public registry. There are potentially serious environmental risks in the development process which must be independently assessed. If built, Zincton Mountain Village will have approximately 80% of the current population of New Denver and Kaslo plus surrounding communities. It will seriously impact traffic levels and vehicle-wildlife collisions on the winding mountain road.
No project of this sort should be approved without a complete analysis of its cumulative effects. The Central Selkirks already have the highest concentration of commercial recreation tenures in B.C. Local and regional landscape level planning by government, in consultation with local stakeholders, is desperately needed before any applications for new or expanded commercial development are allowed to proceed. TWC continues to request that the Province place a moratorium on any new or expanded commercial recreation tenures until such a plan is completed.
We have identified a number of noteworthy issues:
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True Scale and Impact
Zincton Mountain Village (ZMV) is an integral part of this development scheme. It was featured prominently in the Expression of Interest. The Formal Proposal does mention it in passing, but it is largely downplayed. Neither the ski area nor ZMV will exist in isolation; and neither would be built without the other. There are claims of many gains provided by ZMV, but no mention of negative impacts. Many people are concerned about a whole new village capable of housing 1270 residents, guests, and employees being built outside existing communities and directly within the critical wildlife corridor between Goat Range and Kokanee Glacier Provincial Parks.
There are several noteworthy inconsistencies, and misleading information, in the proposal. One example is the claim that the proposed Crown Land tenure occupies only 5% of the mapped critical wildlife habitat corridor between Kokanee Glacier and Goat Range Provincial Parks. An on screen GIS analysis, using figure 3-6 from the Zincton full proposal, indicates the tenure area is actually about 14% of the shown Grizzly Bear corridor; and if the private Zincton Village lands are included, then the entire Zincton project occupies close to 15% of the critical wildlife corridor. Most importantly, the Zincton project potentially severs the wildlife corridor in an east-west direction.
An example of misinformation and corporate “greenwashing” is the claim of ”green” electrical power. Silversmith is a run-of-river operation. According to the full proposal, 2014 Silversmith generated 1.17 GWh, in total for the year. BC Hydro currently lists Silversmith capacity at 0.9 GWh in their Oct. 2021 report. The maximum output would have been during the spring freshet, and there would be less output during mid-winter low flows. The proposal states that the ski lifts at Zincton will require .43 GWh annually, the bulk of which will be needed in mid-winter. The ski lifts require 48% of the currently listed total annual power output of Silversmith and it is needed precisely when Silversmith has low flows to drive the generator, making it doubtful Silversmith can power the lifts in the middle of winter. It will clearly be unable to provide the level of electricity required to power the lifts for later summer hiking, nor the numerous houses, cabins and commercial enterprises in Zincton Mountain Village. The proposal claims the Silversmith supply “will be complemented where needed with onsite solar and wind generation of a scale and design that is aligned with the vision for Zincton and supported by battery storage technology to compensate for variability in power supply”. No detail is provided to support these claims. Battery storage for that level of electrical load on cloudy days would likely be impractical.
Long Term Viability
There are serious questions about data selectively used in the proponent’s climate change analysis. That analysis, in part, attempts to demonstrate the long-term viability of the project in the face of undeniable changes in the planet’s climate. The climate projections are based on a single “representative point” at 1594m elevation rather than grid of points at different elevations to truly represent the area. A significant portion of the lift zone is well below the 1600m contour on their map, and much of it on southerly aspects. The resulting conclusion is inapplicable to a significant portion of the area accessed by the proposed ski lifts.
Numerous economic benefits are claimed in the proposal, including initial construction jobs, and later permanent jobs. However, local limits in some technical fields, and existing trades and equipment capacity, will result in many of the suggested economic benefits flowing outside of the local communities as outside contractors are hired. For example, a large proportion of the proposed $15 million to build the ski area will be spent on purchasing and installing ski lifts. There are no ski lift manufacturers or installers in our local region. That money will not stay in the local community and cannot be claimed as an economic benefit.
The majority of “permanent” jobs will be low paying, and only seasonal. Lift attendants, retail and restaurant workers will not be able to afford homes and settle in the area. Note that many ski hills in BC are currently having trouble getting staff this year because of pandemic related travel problems. This indicates a significant proportion of those employees are coming from afar and will not remain here.
Impact on Existing Villages
Formal studies of the effects of resort developments demonstrate housing shortages and soaring real estate costs and property taxes. This often results in locals being displaced as they can no longer afford to live in their own community.
All local surveys and research show that residents want to develop the region through attracting full time residents with innovative approaches that allow for a diverse, ecologically intact, and economically robust community. Tourism is not the saviour it is made out to be.
As a treasured area important to locals who recreate, gather food, and hunt, it is unjust to allow one developer to hold exclusive control over these cherished public lands. Even with promises that Zincton will allow continued free local access, recreationists will be squeezed out by commercial interests and the massive increase in visitors to the area.
This proposed tenure area is a critical wildlife corridor and the development risks severing a critical north-south connectivity corridor for grizzly bears. It is core habitat for blue-listed grizzly bear, wolverine, mountain goat, and western toad (a federally listed species-at-risk). Wolverine are a species sensitive to human activity, particularly in winter when females are denning. There are five wildlife species at risk, and three plant species at risk, identified in the proposed tenure and village area. Alpine, subalpine, wetlands, and 39 creeks in the proposed development area make this is a sensitive area in need of conservation.
An independent environmental impact assessment must be done. An environmental “overview” conducted and paid for by the proponent is simply not enough due diligence, given the intrinsic values at risk.
The proposed wildlife protection zone is meaningless. The closure will be difficult to enforce and more importantly, it is meant to deflect attention from the real issue; a massive increase in people impacting the area. There will be a new community of approximately 1300 people, and a back country lodge built in the middle of the critical wildlife corridor. There will be 100,000 skier days in the winter and thousands of hikers in the summer in comparison to the hand full of people who use the area at present.
The BC Contaminated Sites Program has a remediation project in progress at the nearby Whitewater Mine. It is foreseeable that historic mining activity on and near the proposed tenure area contains similar contaminants. An independent contamination assessment is clearly warranted and should be completed before any construction activities disturb the landscape and risk wider dispersal of contaminants.
Impact on Water Resources
Zincton Mountain Village will require a significant water system to service 128 homes, 126 cabins (plus guest suites), 60 apartments, and an undisclosed number of commercial use buildings. A very large volume of water will likely be diverted from Kane Creek or its aquifer to support the associated village, all of which are tributaries of Carpenter Creek it’s aquifer and Slocan lake, affecting New Denver water resources and the lake ecosystem. That volume will no longer flow directly into Carpenter Creek and on to Slocan Lake, resulting in a change to the aquatic ecosystem There will also be a very large, or multiple smaller sewage treatment facilities for a village of this scale. Where will that sewage flow, as it drains through soil above Carpenter Creek? The hydrological impact of this commercial resource consumption must be independently evaluated before approval of this project can be granted. …..flow into Carpenter Creek, it’s aquifer and Slocan lake, affecting New Denver water resources and the lake ecosystem.
Highway 31A is a remote, winding narrow highway. There is no cell service on this single lane stretch of road that is already famous for avalanche slides, motorcycle fatalities and collisions with wildlife. Adding 100,000 skiers a year and countless summer visitors will only increase safety challenges on this already dangerous roadway. An increase in wildlife deaths is inevitable with the increased traffic from visitors, residents and employees of the all season resort and new Village. This past summer a moose calf, bats and western toads were documented as killed by motorized traffic in the Zincton area.
First Nations Consultations
Indigenous people currently use the lands where Zincton is proposed; an area called Piq kiʔláwnaʔ – the Sinixt word for the rare White Grizzly. The governments of Canada and British Columbia have committed to truth and reconciliation, and BC has legislated the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Act (DRIPA), which includes several articles about land based reconciliation and governance. The approval of long-term tenures in the absence of First Nations’ approval violates DRIPA. Mountain Resorts Branch and the Province of BC cannot allow a resort development to proceed without consent from Indigenous Nations. Continuing to give out commercial tenures in these territories makes it more difficult for those Nations to exert their decision-making authority should they desire a different approach to land relationship planning, now or in the future. Approving these long-term tenures now also holds future governments and taxpayers liable for potential tenure buy out payments later.
There are other values – intrinsic values –which need to be balanced against alleged economic benefits. These values include wilderness, ecological balance, physical geography unmarred by human activity, opportunities for quiet solitude, open space. It is these values which have drawn many of us, and tourism, to this unique area. There are fewer places like this left as each commercial development proceeds. These non-economic values deserve consideration, and protection.
IF YOU AGREE WITH SOME OR ALL OF OUR CONCERNS, OR HAVE OTHER CONCERNS OF YOUR OWN, PLEASE MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD BY THOSE WHO DECIDE WHETHER THIS PROJECT PROCEEDS.