For the last two weeks work crews, residents and government ministry personnel have been tackling excessive spring runoff in an area impacted by the 2017 White Lake Fire north of Williams Lake.
In the early hours of Saturday, March 23, water began flowing down the mountain, spilling over Soda Creek Road.
The water blew a huge hole in the ground under the CN tracks at Mile 324, halting rail traffic, and rendered Springfield Road impassible.
Local resident George Beltrame said he feared for the health of his water source — a spring that draws water from about two kilometres above his home — which is located below the Soda Creek Road off Springfield Road.
In the 27 years he has lived there he has never seen that much water, he said.
“This is not a secret,” Beltrame said referring to what was expected as a result of the White Lake Fire’s impacts. “We knew there were going to be water issues here after the fire.”
CN Engineering crews investigating the area near the tracks at Mile 324 also found higher than average water run-off from an upland forested area previously impacted by wildfires, a media spokesperson told the Tribune.
“This led to the CN right-of-way becoming saturated. CN crews put in a new culvert as a proactive measure in order to address future possible run-off issues.”
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s maintenance contractor Interior Roads Ltd. removed debris from Springfield Road to make it passable.
“Excessive water overwhelmed the ditch systems and local culverts in the Soda Creek Road area over the last two weeks,” a ministry spokesperson said.
Interior Roads and the MOTI are exploring options to determine what additional culverts may need to be placed at the location to help manage future run-off concerns.
Shawn Dennis purchased his home on Springfield Road in July 2016 and a year later when the White Lake Fire swept through he lost some buildings and received some damage to his home.
When the road was washed out two weeks ago he had to take a day off work and said when he examined another road that goes up to the top of the mountain above Soda Creek Road he saw that it was “totally gone.”
“The water was going wherever it wanted,” Dennis said.
He has a well and said it was not impacted.
“The community out here has been suffering,” he added.
Quesnel resident Don Maruniak has had a mineral rights claim at the Fraser River for what he calls “soda rock,” for more than a decade.
“I planned to market the rock now that I’m retired,” Maruniak said after he inspected damage to the access road that leads down to the river. “Now the road is destroyed. It’s a major concern.”
The White Lake Fire burned 13,210 hectares, claimed 10 homes and 44 structures.