With area structure plan (ASP) and environmental impact statement (EIS) documents regarding development in Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) set to be released to the public and members of Canmore council, the team in charge of representing the developer has outlined the project’s impact on two crucial issues: wildlife and undermining.
Both topics have received increased attention over the past week following the approval of a sustainability screening report (SSR), which council passed largely due to the possibility of completing the wildlife corridor adjacent to the proposed development.
On Monday (March 18), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the court-ordered receiver in charge of TSMV, held an open house at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre in Canmore to give the public a chance to see a more detailed plan of the development.
The main focus of many residents who attended the open house was the section dedicated to undermining, an issue some felt was lacking in the SSR presentation made a week earlier.
Although undermining in Three Sisters is a provincially-regulated matter that applies to how the development occurs and the liabilities, if any, are addressed, environmental consultant Golder Associates has provided material relating to development on certain portions of land.
According to the draft plan, medium and low density housing has been proposed on the unfinished golf course in the area known as Resort Centre II, which does have undermining.
“We can develop based on the drilling information we have,” said Ray Predika, a geotechnical engineer for Golder Associates who has been associated with undermining in Three Sisters since the mid-’90s.
“We have quite a bit indicating the ground strains in the areas we’ve selected for development cells are low,” he added. “A portion of those cells could probably be developed using conventional construction.
“We need to do a little bit more investigating. Other areas will require ground mitigation.”
Citing a test site near the Stewart Creek golf course which involved undermining mitigation by pumping non-segregating slurry into the ground, Predika indicated the technique works, although “the mining is less extensive in the Resort Centre II area than it is in Stewart Creek.”
The geotechnical engineer also reiterated the development proposed is “absolutely safe” despite the undermining present in the area.
One day after the open house, representatives from Golder and PwC were again in front of Canmore council to describe the nature of the upcoming EIS report that has significant information about finishing the wildlife corridor and potential mitigation techniques for limiting human wildlife interaction.
Though the presentation to council was merely an outline of the full report that will be released next week, wildlife biologist Kyle Knopff highlighted several key topics such as wildlife usage in areas with slopes greater than 25 degrees as well as how beneficial the designated habitat patch on Site 9 will be.
Knopff also addressed the amount of use by wildlife, particularly elk and deer, on the unfinished golf course and suggested that is mainly a way to avoid predators like wolves and cougars.
As part of the proposal, the developer has vowed to implement human wildlife mitigations through more education via signage on wildlife corridors and habitat patches, but also potentially through the use of fencing surrounding certain areas.
“People are infiltrating the corridors everywhere and wildlife are moving into developed landscapes and getting into trouble,” Knopff said, adding putting a fence in place will drive both elk and deer from the unfinished golf course and effectively reduce human interaction with large carnivores.
The details of the exact locations for possible fencing are still being worked on, however, the biologist did indicate the idea is to encircle some developments.
Contrary to research presented by Golder, local conservation groups, including Yellowstone to Yukon and Bow Valley Naturalists, have insisted the corridor in question is not wide enough and are asking developers to widen it on the downslope side near Site 7 to 600 metres.
The group is also requesting the unfinished golf course be kept as is to function as a buffer to the wildlife corridor.
The EIS will be reviewed by administration and its third party consultant, Management and Solution in Environmental Science, and made available on the Town’s website, canmore.ca, next Tuesday (April 2).