More than 50 sites and 30 bridges on the East Kootenay’s backcountry roads need to be repaired, with the damage estimate at $5.5 million.
Ray Morello, manager of the Rocky Mountain Forest District, said work has started to assess each site individually, but it’s a complex process.
“Just the scope of this, with the number of bridges and pieces of road that will have to be addressed, that’s why it takes some time,” said Morello.
“We are trying to figure out what has to be done first. It’s not as simple as just getting out there and regrading a road or reinstalling a culvert.”
Morello said that the forest district has identified three drainages that are the highest priority to repair: roads in the White River, Bull River and Elk River drainages.
“That’s where our focus will be,” he said.
The first step is an engineering assessment on each site.
“For example, if a bridge has been destroyed, the engineers have to determine what size bridge will now be required,” said Morello. “Some of the crossings are no longer suitable so we may have to assess if the crossing needs to be relocated to a different spot.”
Once a new bridge is ordered, it is built by an engineering firm and transported to the area. Then abutments must be built and installed, before finally the bridge can be put in.
“That’s all quite a process to do,” said Morello.
Similarly, some sections of road may need to be relocated.
“Some sections of road have been completely removed by the creeks, so we have to make an assessment if we can rebuild the road in that location. Then we have to have a biologist make a call on whether we can do work to reestablish roads which the river has now carved out.”
Money to do the work is not really a problem at the moment, Morello said.
“We are using existing funding to get the assessments done and get as much work done as we can before the window of opportunity for this season will end.”
The forest district, under the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, will apply to have those costs reimbursed later under Emergency Management B.C., which provides money for unforeseen events such as the flooding that caused this massive amount of damage.
Creating a time frame for when roads will be reopened – and if it will be this summer – is practically impossible at this point, Morello said.
“That’s pretty hard to say right now,” he said. “As soon as we have those assessments, we will start tendering the works.
“You have to be mindful that some of these sites are high elevation sites, so winter comes early.
“From October onward, it may be unsuitable to do those road repairs.”
For a full list of backcountry road closures, visit www.for.gov.bc.ca/drm/services/road-works.htm.