Water Management and Snowmaking Strategy

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The full Water Management and Snowmaking Strategy can be found in the Documents library of this website:

As required by the 2018 Site Guidelines, a Water Management and Snowmaking Strategy (WMSS or the “Strategy”) has been developed in conjunction with the first Long-Range Plan (LRP). The purpose of the WMSS is to outline a strategic and consistent approach to water development and water resource management at the ski area. The WMSS considers projects and changes in use being pursued by Sunshine as part of the first LRP and is expected to be carried forward as the basis for subsequent LRP proposals in the future. Projects being pursued by Sunshine in advance of the LRP area also considered. Water management for the ski area will support and align with the parameters outlined in the 2018 Site Guidelines in addressing objectives related to water resources and the protection and maintenance of local aquatic ecosystems. The full Strategy document is available in Appendix A; a summary of the key elements of the Strategy is presented in this section.

Projects and ongoing ski area operations in advance of the first LRP will be conducted with the overall objective of increasing efficiencies and water conservation at the ski area and improving ecological outcomes for local and downstream aquatic habitats, including riparian habitat. Achieving resort balance prior to additional growth and expansion activities will be an important objective. Key projects planned in advance of or in conjunction with the LRP that will address these objectives include upgrades to the Bourgeau parking lot and Healy Creek riparian buffer, and upgrades to the Sunshine Village WWTP.

The upgrades to the parking lot were completed in 2021 with the intended goal of improving stormwater management, enhancing the riparian buffer between the parking lot and Healy Creek, and addressing capacity issues for parking at Sunshine Village. Planned upgrades to the WWTP will modernize the facility, with the intended goal of consistently meeting Parks Canada’s Leadership Targets for wastewater effluent release for phosphorus and reducing effects on water quality in Sunshine Creek. The capacity of the system is also being designed to accommodate 8,500 SAOT, thereby bringing the infrastructure development for wastewater into balance for future growth. Upgrades to the WWTP will be undertaken in collaboration with PCA prior to constructing the Wolverine Day Lodge.

No changes to water infrastructure or redevelopment of the water system at Sunshine Village will be required to support ongoing ski area operations in advance of the first LRP. Where feasible, upgrades to facilities and infrastructure will be made to increase efficiency and reduce water use as part of routine maintenance activities.

Projects advanced under the first LRP will be conducted with the overall strategy of increasing design capacity to 8,500 SAOT within existing Water Permit limits, while providing the adequate infrastructure development to support the increased use. The strategy also considers an 10% increase in staff under the LRP. As an outcome of the projected increases in visitation, domestic water use is expected to increase under the LRP. This will result in an increase in water withdrawn from Sunshine Creek, Rock Isle Lake, and the Bourgeau Well. However, the projected increase in water use will remain within permitted withdrawal limits. The results of a water balance completed in support of the DIA for the LRP indicate that the available water supply for the ski area is sufficient in most circumstances to meet the increased demand in water use, including domestic, snowmaking and emergency and firefighting purposes, under the first LRP. If required, water use for snowmaking would be limited to ensure adequate water supply to meet domestic demand.

No changes in snowmaking coverage or associated water use are planned under the first LRP; therefore, water withdrawals from Healy Creek are not expected to change meaningfully relative to existing conditions. Healy Creek water withdrawals will continue to be managed within the limits of the 10/90 rule, which is considered protective of instream flow requirements for Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Bull Trout.

Some Project components may encroach on riparian habitat associated with the Cayuse Creek drainage that is designated as Critical Habitat for Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Bull Trout and is a tributary of Sunshine Creek (DFO 2019, 2020). At the current stage of planning for the LRP, the footprint elements for LRP projects are approximate, and effort will be made during detailed design to situate these developments outside of the riparian buffer zone defined for the affected drainage. If permanent footprints within the 30-m riparian buffer zone cannot be avoided, Sunshine will engage with Parks Canada to determine if a Species at Risk Act (SARA) permit is required to authorize the activities. If a SARA permit is ultimately required, Sunshine would adhere to all required permit conditions to protect Critical Habitat for Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Bull Trout.

Projects developed during the first LRP will be constructed and managed within the existing water system at Sunshine Village. However, in limited instances, new or upgraded infrastructure will be required to advance these projects. For example, an underground water line and sewer line will be installed to service the proposed Top of Wolverine Day Lodge. Water conservation will continue to be a key objective during the first LRP and will be considered in the design of new facilities and replacement of aging infrastructure.

Although not being proposed formally under this LRP, increased summer visitation over time is possible, and development of build-out projects as part of a second LRP could result in a further increase in domestic and snowmaking water use, and consequently, redevelopment of the associated water infrastructure. The development of new water reservoirs to provide additional storage for snowmaking and potable water use will be considered in a subsequent LRP to address the potential for increased water demand at build-out and to increase water security. These reservoirs may also mitigate potential risks of climate change and reduce on-demand water needs in Healy Creek.

Other key components of the strategy that will be applied at all phases of development include ongoing maintenance and monitoring activities related to water resources, development of an Environmental Management and Monitoring Strategy (EMMS) (Section 4.9) that will include consideration of water issues, and planning and action to mitigate potential erosion and sedimentation concerns. Regular maintenance and monitoring activities related to the water system and aquatic receiving environment will continue during all phases of development, and to meet Water Permit requirements. Key objectives of the 2018 Site Guidelines and WMSS related to water use, conservation, and wastewater performance will be managed and tracked through implementation of the EMMS for the LRP. Adherence to Best Management Practises (BMPs) and mitigation related to sediment and erosion during all stages of development will minimize soil loss and protect downstream water quality and aquatic habitat functionality.

Please note that all comments posted below are public. If you would like to provide comments directly to Sunshine Village and Parks Canada, please email lrp@skibanff.com.

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