The future of forest service roads

Washouts, landslides on many EK forest service roads; no money to fix them, MLA Macdonald says

After the torrential rains at the end of June, many backcountry forest service roads are in very poor condition, with bridge washouts, landslides and erosion.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations put out a warning on July 11 — Backcountry travel limited at this time due to extensive road damages. Many locations have not been inspected for damage and may be unsafe. Take extreme caution when using damaged areas.

Don’t expect much of the damage to be repaired any time soon says Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.

He says that the rains in June have simply exacerbated an ongoing problem of lack of maintenance on the province’s forest service roads.

Damage to these roads in the East Kootenay alone is estimated to run at about $5.5 million, Macdonald said, and the money is not there to fix them.

“There has been an ongoing decline in maintenance of these roads,” Macdonald said. “It’s an ongoing problem. With this storm, we have roads washed out and, in some cases, forestry equipment trapped at the end of them.

“So $5.5 million worth of work needs to be done and the government is saying the Provincial Emergency Program will handle it.”

Macdonald says PEP funding will likely not come through until September or October, so many forestry companies are repairing the roads themselves to get access to their heavy equipment, hoping to submit the bills to PEP.

But most roads will simply not be fixed at all.

“They just don’t have the money here locally to fix these roads,” Macdonald said. “Maintenance of these roads was an issue without the storm. That just pushed it forward.”