By: Suzanne Senger

Qualified Professionals hired by the Town of Gibsons say "the George" poses risks to Gibsons aquifer. 

Klaus Fuerniss’s "George Hotel" development application originally included a report by Horizon Engineering that said excavations for the project would not harm Gibsons’ aquifer, and GABC was very troubled by this claim. We commissioned a peer review of the report in January 2014 that determined excavations would in fact penetrate Gibsons’ aquifer. After a year of study and further peer review by consultants hired by the Town of Gibsons, it turns out that all our concerns and predictions have been proven correct.

Yet Klaus Fuerniss keeps on telling the public that the aquifer is not at risk and Gibsons Mayor Wayne Rowe, does not seem to be concerned.

At a special meeting of council held at the Legion on Tuesday, May 12th, Gibsons council voted unanimously to pass first reading of the zoning amendment enabling the controversial George Hotel and Condominium project.

The packed room first heard a presentation from project proponent Klaus Fuerniss’s project engineer, Karim Karzadegan, from Horizon Engineering. He claimed the mitigation work they had done since learning that their original plans put the aquifer in jeopardy would be sufficient to protect the aquifer. He said the 125 ft tall building would now sit on concrete slabs over top of “improved soils” made by mixing the sandy/silt topsoil of the site with a kind of concrete/grout additive.

Klaus Fuerniss’s engineer was followed by Klaus Fuerniss’s architect, who told us how raising the building above the aquitard had required bringing the underground parking levels up so that the hotel is now over four feet higher than it was before.

Town planner Andre Boel also made a brief presentation, summarizing his staff report on reports received from Horizon and from the two companies engaged by the town to review the Horizon plans.

Yet no one from the two reviewing companies representing the Town were in attendance to present their reports or answer questions from council or the public.

Waterline Resources, the consultants who conducted the mapping of Gibsons Aquifer, peer reviewed the hydrogeological aspects of Fuerniss’s study. Some comments from their peer review include:

  • On the land portion of the project site, the possibility of an uncontrollable breach of the Gibsons Aquitard caused by the proposed excavation for the parking garage is of major concern.
  • “If heaving is indicated during construction then it may already be too late for corrective action.”
  • “…It is Waterline's opinion that there is insufficient data to characterize the Gibsons Aquifer-Aquitard system within the proposed dredging area or to fully understand the impact of the proposed marine development on the Gibsons Aquifer-Aquitard system.”

A second peer review, by Levelton Engineering, the company who reviewed Horizon’s geotechnical work, said over and over again in their report of May 7th, 2015, that many serious questions and issues remain unanswered. (See full report here)

They express concern with the credibility of some of Horizon’s statements and assert that the Horizon study does not appear to have considered factors that might result in potential soil piping, uncontrolled sinkhole, aquifer depressurization, or ground settlement, any of which could be catastrophic. They suggest that the issue of dredging for the marina and cleaning up the contamination landward and seaward of the site should be dealt with before any permits are issued, and they question the economic feasibility of the project.

Levelton conclude their report saying, “We are not at this time in a position to advise the Town that the report, as submitted, has adequately addressed the potential geotechnical issues or provided a suitable confidence level as to the adequacy of proposed site preparation and foundation concepts.”

As you can see, both are damning reviews, which clearly raise the alarm that the proposed George Hotel project poses a real threat to Gibsons aquifer.