Canmore residents seek environmental assessment for contentious Three Sisters development

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas said it would review the request, adding it previously approved the Three Sisters wildlife corridor in 2020

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Canmore residents are continuing to push back on a proposed development that could double the town’s population by requesting Alberta conduct a new environmental assessment on the plan.

Lawyers representing Bow Valley Engage (BVE), a local residents’ group, sent a 15-page letter to Alberta Environment and Protected Areas on Tuesday requesting the province undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment Referral (EIA) for the Three Sisters Mountain Village.

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The sprawling development, which has been in the works for more than 30 years, was approved in October by Canmore town council — but only after the Alberta Court of Appeal rejected the town’s appeal of a ruling that the development must go ahead.

Three Sisters’ wildlife corridor was approved by Alberta Environment in 2020.

The residents’ group is seeking a response from the department by the end of February.

BVE says the environmental assessment process has never been completed under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA).

It says the only environmental reporting is either municipal, which fails to meet EPEA requirements, or is 32 years old “and done in compliance with legislation that no longer exists.”

“What we have now is, ‘Yes, it (the development) will serve the public interest for the conditions that existed 32 years ago.’ That seems ridiculous to us, given the scale of this proposal,” Karsten Heuer, president of BVE, said in an interview with Postmedia.

Alberta Environment approved Three Sisters wildlife corridor in 2020

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas is not required under current legislation to undertake an EIA for Three Sisters. BVE’s request asks the ministry to assess several considerations, including First Nations rights, its environmental effect, an assessment of Canmore’s housing needs and other issues — a hefty process that could significantly delay the development’s timeline.

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Bow Valley Engage’s submission says it’s concerned about the project’s effect on the wildlife corridor between Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park.

In a statement to Postmedia, Tom McMillan, director of communications for Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, said the department will review the request closely “and assess all the available information to determine if a new Environmental Impact Assessment is required.”

“Alberta Environment and Protected Areas previously approved the Three Sisters wildlife corridor in 2020 — a decision that was several years in the making. The department’s experts closely considered both scientific and technical reports, and input from local residents and others as part of the assessment process,” McMillan wrote.

The department added land zoning and other decisions are made by municipalities and encouraged residents to discuss their concerns with local officials.

Three Sisters Mountain Village was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the developer told Postmedia.

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Council granted approval in October after court decision

The Three Sisters development, covering about 154 hectares of undeveloped land that would eventually double Canmore’s population and geographic footprint, has faced scrutiny since it was first proposed more than 30 years ago.

Legal battles over its future came to a head in October 2023 when the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled the development must go ahead. It found the projects were in line with the Natural Resources Conservation Board’s 1992 review of the Three Sisters area, meaning that under the Municipal Government Act, council was required to approve the developments.

The town and councillors would have faced legal consequences had they voted against the developments.

The land was previously annexed decades ago for future development, Mayor Sean Krausert said in October, saying it “has always been a question of when — not if.”

— With files from Michael Rodriguez

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X: @mattscace67

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