Cariboo MLAs are demanding the NDP government take action as the spring freshet continues to destroy the region’s roads.
The joint demand, in a letter to Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming, comes from Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson, Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart and Michael Lee, opposition critic for transportation, infrastructure and TransLink.
“People shouldn’t have to worry about the condition or safety of the roads they depend on, and the NDP needs to step in and make sure that roads are being properly maintained and swiftly repaired,” Doerkson said.
The MLAs called on MoTI to make road repair a priority in the region, as well as share the government’s plans on how it intends to maintain roads across rural B.C.
“We need to ensure that as we cope with these growing challenges, all of our transportation networks in B.C. are being maintained and rebuilt, not just those in densely populated areas,” the letter reads.
Lee said the level of road destruction throughout the Interior is the worst it has been in years.
“Despite the urgency of the situation, there has been little response from the NDP government to intervene and provide the area with the resources needed to repair and maintain these vital transportation networks,” he said. “This situation is dire and we need to see government step up and come to the aid of impacted communities.”
Both the BC Liberal MLAs and Fleming agree changing weather, and deforestation from mountain pine beetle infestation and wildfires are huge factors, “leaving the ground more vulnerable to the elements.
“This year we are experiencing destruction and road collapse on a much larger scale,” the letter reads.
The four BC Liberal MLAs are also calling on the federal government to support more area roads through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA).
Fleming maintains more resources are coming into the region, and he has been working closely with the federal government to ensure Cariboo roads are a priority.
Staff from different agencies across the province have been deployed to the Cariboo while the province is planning to set up a response centre with help from the BC Wildlife Service, Fleming said. A 1-800 phone number is anticipated to be set up so residents can remain up-to-date on road conditions.
“Once the landslides stop moving, we’ll have engineering reports on what standards we need to rebuild some of the infrastructure that has not withstood the last couple years of heavy rains and high water tables,” he said.
Fleming said the provincial government is also building partnerships with municipal and federal partners to improve the situation.
“There is an expectation we will approach the federal government as a partner in order to rebuild right in the Cariboo when the time comes,” he said. “I can imagine the frustration for Cariboo residents because some of the roads they have lost the use of have not been quick fixes.”
Fleming said he hopes to come out to the Cariboo region to see the damage for himself, but hasn’t been able to make it yet because of the pandemic restrictions. He is slated to have a phone meeting Monday with the Cariboo Regional District on the issue.
He added what roads would be repaired first depends on the slide situation. “Nature to some extent dictates what ones we can do in what sequence.”
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