An astounding amount of work has been done on the East Kootenay’s backcountry roads since the June 2013 floods that caused $5.5 million worth of damage.
More than 50 sites and 30 bridges were damaged during the torrential rainstorms that hit the area in late June.
Since that time, staff at the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations have been working virtually non-stop to repair roads that access logging operations, hunting areas and popular hikes.
Dave Rebagliati, an engineer with the Rocky Mountain Forest District, said they have been able to do “quite a bit more” than they expected to achieve in a few short summer months.
“I haven’t had a lot of time off, but we are getting everything put back together,” he said.
“Some of the roads aren’t fixed 100 per cent but at least it’s open to the public. For industrial use, we’ve got a bit more work to do, but we’re not holding anything up there right now.”
By the time the snow flies, the ministry will have spent close to $1.5 million to fix the unprecedented damage to the East Kootenay’s forestry roads, according to Rebagliati.
“We were able to get a bit more funding than I originally thought. My counterparts in the north were able to forego some projects until next year, so they freed up some money for us.”
Work will continue for several weeks yet, he said.
“I hope Mother Nature will let us work until at the least the middle of October if not longer than that.”
On the Bull River Forest Service Road, washouts were repaired at 92 km and 94 km.
“The Bull River Forest Service Road is open to Munroe Lake. There is some temporary fixes in there, but it is definitely open enough for public traffic,” said Rebagliati.
Bridges on the Elk River Forest Service Road were repaired at 125km, 140km and 145km.
“We put a temporary bridge in at 145km and we’ve straightened out a lot of the washouts. So public traffic can utilize the road to get into the park. It still won’t be open to industrial traffic for another couple of weeks. We have some repairs to do on a couple of bridges. But there’s no problem getting through. It’s just some structural stuff: some of the foundations have been undermined a little bit and we just have to beef them up a little bit.”
Delighting pilgrims who hike Fisher Peak and the Tanglefoot, Mause Creek Forest Service Road was repaired around September 11.
“We constructed a trail around the slough so people can get in there. It just kind of skirts around the edge. It’s safe, but we’ll have to come back and reinforce and make sure everything is fine there and it doesn’t slough again next year,” said Rebagliati.
Hikers will also be pleased that Meachen Creek Forest Service Road has been reopened after a washout at 10.5km.
“We fixed Meachen Creek so all the hikes up there are good as well now, so up to Hourglass Lake. Those hikes are all open for people,” said Rebagliati.
The ministry is continuing to work on popular forestry roads.
Drilling and blasting is underway this week on the Skookumchuck Forest Service Road at 35km where a bridge was washed out.
“They are drilling and blasting there right now to repair the road at 35km. People have built an ATV route around there. That’s closed 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. while they are in there drilling and blasting. We’ve got to keep it safe for the public,” said Rebagliati.
Work will start this week on Summer Lake Forest Service Road, which is closed at 59 km due to a washout.
Following that, Dewar Creek Forest Service Road will be the priority.
“In the next couple of weeks we hope to get up into Dewar to start doing some repairs. I think we’ll have to put a bridge in at the back end, so we’ll fix the washouts to there so we can get a crew in to do the survey information,” said Rebagliati.
Meanwhile, the devastated Whiteriver/Whiteswan Forest Service Road is still undergoing repairs.
“All the work on the road between 37km and 44km should be complete Wednesday (September 25). And we are driving piles on the bridge at 32km (Thursday, September 19). If it goes okay, probably by the end of next week we should have that bridge done,” said Rebagliati.
But at 44km, the second bridge over the White River won’t be replaced this year.
“I was just out there with an engineer. We’ll have to do a design there so it will take a couple of months to finalize the design. So hopefully we will put that in next year,” he said.
Also, the Middle Fork of the White River road won’t be accessible this year.
“There are some washouts that we haven’t been able to fix yet. We probably won’t get that done this year, but we’ll do that early next year.”
But the North White is accessible, Rebagliati went on.
“The Gray Creek bridge is fixed and the one at 71km. That opened that up so Canfor has been able to haul out to the Palliser.”
For a full list of current road closures, visit www.for.gov.bc.ca/drm/services/road-works.htm.