In a decision released December 8, 1992, the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB or Board) announced that it was prepared to grant an approval to Three Sisters Golf Resorts Inc. for the construction of a portion of the proposed recreational and tourism project in the Town of Canmore, subject to authorization by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The approval included a condition that would not allow construction of the portion of the project proposed for the area known as Wind Valley. The development was reviewed by the NRCB as a result of it being a "recreational or tourism project" as defined in the NRCB Act.
The application was considered at a hearing from June 15 to July 23, 1992, at Canmore, Alberta. The Board reviewed all of the evidence received at the hearing and determined that the proposed project would result in substantial beneficial economic effects on the Province of Alberta and on the Canmore region. However, the project would contribute to a rapid population growth in the Town of Canmore and had the potential to result in related social problems. The Board believes that these potential problems could be adequately planned for and handled.
The project would also affect the environment. For the portion of it proposed to be located in the Bow Valley, the Board believed that with careful planning and appropriate mitigative measures and monitoring, the environmental effects would not be so serious as to cause the project to be refused. With respect to the portion proposed for Wind Valley, the Board believed the environmental effects would not be manageable and that there would be a serious risk of substantial lasting effects on certain vegetation types and species of wildlife. As a result, and notwithstanding the potential for substantial economic benefits, the Board was not prepared to extend the approval to include the Wind Valley portion of the proposed project. The Board concluded that the remainder of the proposed project would be in the public interest taking into account the social and economic effects and the effects on the environment.
The Board approval contained a number of conditions that would:
- prohibit the development of the portion of the project proposed for Wind Valley;
- approve the project as proposed for the Bow Valley, but provide flexibility with respect to the detailed timing, specific land uses and population densities and the locations of services and utilities, subject to approval of the Town of Canmore;
- prior to the construction of facilities over areas previously undermined by coal mining activities, require Three Sisters to carry out an assessment of the safety of the area, satisfactory to the Town of Canmore;
- prohibit the pumping of water from the mine workings for use in the project;
- prohibit the taking of water from Pigeon Creek or its tributaries for use in the project;
- require a review of chemicals used on golf courses and a reporting of results to Alberta Environment every three years;
- require the use of specified construction techniques that would reduce disturbance of the environment to the lowest practical level;
- require Three Sisters to design and implement a water monitoring program satisfactory to Alberta Environment and Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife;
- require the design of vegetation buffer strips along all water courses in a manner satisfactory to Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife;
- require the preparation of a vegetation inventory and management plan and a vegetation monitoring plan satisfactory to Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife; and
- require Three Sisters to incorporate into its detailed design, provision for wildlife movement corridors in as undeveloped a state as possible, and to prepare a wildlife aversive conditioning plan, both satisfactory to Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife.
The Board also made a number of recommendations regarding the proposed project to the Applicant, the Town of Canmore, Alberta Environment and Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. It also made a number of recommendations to the Government of Alberta, including the following:
That the Government take the initiative in the formation of a senior level Planning and Advisory Committee, with appropriate subcommittees, to provide advice to decision makers respecting ongoing developments in the Bow Corridor. Specific subcommittees recommended included an Undermining Review Group and a Regional Ecosystem Advisory Group.
That the Government establish a task force to investigate ways of addressing the affordable housing issue in the Town of Canmore, and that the Government be prepared to provide some Crown land at less than market prices to assist in that regard.
That the Government be prepared to negotiate with Three Sisters towards some form of remedial action which would provide alternatives to Three Sisters respecting the lands in Wind Valley owned by Three Sisters and for which the proposed development is being refused.
Copies of the decision report for this project are available by contacting the NRCB's Edmonton office at (780) 422-1977.