Staff from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) are coming to Quesnel next week to provide an update on the status of West Fraser Road.
An open house will take place Wednesday, May 1 from 3-8 p.m. in the Dunkley Room on the second floor of the West Fraser Centre (500 Barlow Ave.), and ministry staff will be on hand to answer questions and discuss options to re-establish regular service for affected residents following the significant 2018 flood damage to the road.
Last April, high water levels from the spring freshet caused Narcosli Creek to erode five sections of the West Fraser Road, on the west side of the Fraser River, approximately 17 kilometres south of Quesnel.
The damage was severe, and the road had to be closed. For the past year, residents have had to use a detour that takes them on Garner Road and Webster Lake Road, which is a two-lane gravel road.
Damage to West Fraser Road included 250 metres of road embankment washed out oat the north end of the three-kilometre section that was affected and 100 metres of road embankment washed out near the north end of the three-kilometre section. As well, a 100-metre section of road is washed out north of the Narcosli Bridge, and at the bridge, the north side road embankment and rip-rap was washed out, eliminating the road and bridge connection. At the switchback at Deep Creek Hill, the road embankment washed out for 100 metres, and another section of road embankment has slid and/or collapsed.
About 200 vehicles per day normally use West Fraser Road, which accesses First Nation communities, ranches, logging activities, farming lands and local residences, according to the MOTI.
A detour route is in place via Garner Road and Webster Lake Road, which is a two-lane gravel road.
The ministry is evaluating information from recently-completed geotechnical, hydrological, environmental and archaeological assessments, as it investigates options to re-establish regular service. Geotechnical investigations of the Narcosli Creek area continue in order to determine the ground conditions and assess soil stability and constructability for various proposed alignments, according to the ministry. In addition, the ministry has reached out to Public Safety Canada to discuss potential federal funding opportunities for the project and will be submitting a business case for cost-share funding consideration.
This open house will take place about a week and a half after the MOTI provided an update to School District 28’s board of education in which the minster stated they hoped to hold an open house to share their findings and solicit community input once the field work and engineering analysis of potential options for West Fraser Road.
“Restoring regular service to those who rely upon West Fraser Road is an ongoing ministry priority, and we intend to have a detailed design in place and the project out to tender by late 2019,” Minister Claire Trevena wrote in a letter to the board, which was received at the board’s April 17 meeting. “During our September 2018 meeting with the community, the project team committed to meeting with the community again once they were prepared to incorporate public input into a preferred design. A number of options have been identified for consideration, and additional geotechnical work is now being undertaken to prove out the feasibility of these potential options.”
Before last spring’s major flood triggered three new, active slides and closed the road, this section of West Fraser Road had experienced significant slide movements, with two historic, deep-seated slides that required remediation, Trevena noted in her letter.
“Altogether, the five slides have an estimated volume of more than 28 million cubic metres of soil — enough to fill nearly 11,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” she wrote. “Given the enormity of the disaster, the ministry is seeking a federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement to fund this large project. Initial results indicate that project costs could be in the range of $100 million or more.”
For those unable to attend the open house, the MOTI’s display boards will be posted online May 1 at engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/consultation/west-fraser-road-flood-recovery/.