The Mause Creek Forest Service Road is pictured at the site of a washout caused by last month’s flooding

The Mause Creek Forest Service Road is pictured at the site of a washout caused by last month’s flooding

Million-dollar fix for back roads

East Kootenay forestry roads will be expensive to fix after June’s devastating floods

One month after torrential rains devastated the East Kootenay, many backcountry roads in the region remain closed as government staff scramble to plan expensive repairs.

Dave Rebagliatti, an engineer with the Rocky Mountain Forest District, said that close to 30 bridges in the district were lost in the flood, and many roads have a lot of damage.

“Most of the other ones are pretty severely impacted so it’s not a simple fix,” said Rebagliatti. “It’s a pretty big impact.”

He said that the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will consider reassigning funding that was set for another purpose. Emergency Management BC may allot funding to reimburse the ministry’s work, but that could be some time coming.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett said he understands the importance of backcountry roads to his constituents.

“I certainly recognize how important getting into the backcountry is to my constituents because I use those same roads,” said Bennett.

“We all must realize that the recent flood damage to roads and bridges is unprecedented. A complete repair will cost millions of dollars.”

Rebagliatti said the ministry has yet to settle on a priority list for fixing forestry roads.

“We haven’t nailed down which ones are high priority. I would say the Whiteswan area is one of the high priority ones because there is equipment trapped in there and it has been cut off completely.”

Closer to Cranbrook, the popular Fisher Peak trail is cut off by a washout on Mause Creek Forest Service Road. But that road won’t be one of the first fixed, Rebagliatti said.

“Mause Creek is a pretty low priority because there is one hike up there and it’s a fairly significant event up there. We would have to have a geo-tech look at that and make sure whatever we do to fix it is safe.

“It’s an expensive fix for the amount you get out of it.”

Bennett said that the ministry is necessarily focusing on roads that access active logging operations.

“I have met with (the ministry) right after the floods and with forest companies, both of which have rights and obligations around resource roads. I support their priority to repair roads first that are associated with logging and forestry jobs.”

But Bennett is advocating for roads with a high recreational value as well, he went on.

“I have also made it known to both government and industry that resource roads important to recreation, trapping and guide outfitting should be repaired as soon as we can afford to do the work,” said Bennett.

Last updated July 19, here is a list of forestry road closures.

• Albert River Forest Service Road is closed due to washed out bridges.

• Buhl Creek Forest Service Road is closed due to washed out bridges.

• Bull River Forest Service Road is closed at 92 km due to the river being on the road, and 94 km due to a washout.

• Cross River Forest Service Road is closed at the third bridge due to a washout.

• TheElk River Forest Service Road’s bridges at 125 km and 140 km are rated for small pick-up trucks only. Weary Creek bridge at 145 km is washed out.

• On Flathead Forest Service Road from Corbin south to Flathead town site, there are multiple washouts including all bridges and culverts.

• The Gray Creek Pass is open to 4WD vehicles only, due to narrow road running widths and rough conditions. The road is closed to vehicles towing trailers, motor homes and wide vehicles.

• Lussier River Forest Service Road to Top of World Provincial Park has several small washouts; pick-up truck and SUV access only.

• Mause Creek Forest Service Road is closed at 4 km due to a landslide on the road.

• McClatchie Forest Service Road is closed at the Squaw Creek Bridge due to a bridge washout.

• Meachen Creek Forest Service Road is closed at 10.5 km due to washouts.

• Palliser River Forest Service Road is closed at 56.5 km, 59 km, and 61 km due to washouts.

• Skookumchuk Forest Service Road is closed at 35 km due to a bridge being washed out.

• St. Mary’s Main Forest Service Road is closed at 48 km due to a washout.

• St. Mary’s Lake outlet bridge is closed due to high water and instability. The bridge is closed at this time. The bridge will be replaced between August 5 to September 15, 2013.

• Summer Lake Forest Service Road is closed at 50 km due to washout.

• Whiteriver (Whiteswan) Forest Service Road is closed at 32.5 km due to a bridge approach washout, at 37 km due to a washout, and at 44 km a bridge is washed out.

• Wildhorse Forest Service Road has large rocks at 15.5 km. Use caution when driving on this road. The road is open to Bear Lake trail. Lakit Lookout road is open.