The community of Xeni Gwet’in First Nation has declared a state of local emergency due to a washout on the Taseko Road as of Tuesday, April 27.
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua described the area near the 33 kilometre mark of Taseko Road as a floodplain, saying it is impacting his community’s access.
“It’s pretty deep,” Lulua said.
“As of Thursday it will be seven days [of flooding]. Luckily we haven’t had any emergencies. If we had, air ambulance is only available during the day. After hours we would have a seven-hour drive on a rough road through Henry’s Crossing Road.”
Crews are on site installing a bridge that should be in place by Thursday, April 29.
Band manager Dalton Baptiste noted in a bulletin issued Tuesday, April 27, community leadership is working hard to ensure that all community members are safe and cared for and is asking people not use any back roads around the washout unless absolutely essential because all are unstable and cannot support heavy traffic.
Lulua said this winter the Nemiah Valley received more snow than average and last year was a wet season and the water didn’t really go down.
“We had frost heaves in places where there shouldn’t be frost heaves because there is so much water and so much snow yet to melt.”
Residents have been using the Henry’s Crossing Road as an alternative route, but with the amount of traffic using it parts are getting soft near where it enters Nemiah Valley, Lulua said.
Lulua said the community’s own Xeni Gwet’in Enterprises has been responsible for maintaining area roads since the 1990s and has been working with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff on some solutions for Taseko Road.
“In the last year, we’ve had a partnership with Quality Excavating and Marko Zurak has been the lead on that. They have really helped us with building up our skills.”
For the short-term the plan is to get the road open.
Two culverts that were too small were removed because the creeks weren’t moving fast enough.
The bridge being installed will be temporary until a permanent one can be found by Aug. 1.
“There will be a few simple detours we will have to make because the water is going to come up.”
A long-term decision will have to made whether to build up the road or connect to another road, he added.
“Our good friend Randy Saugstad flew over the area with is helicopter. In the Vedan Ranch area there are still some snowdrifts that are about four feet high,” Lulua said Tuesday, April 27. “It’s a high elevation ranch which is closer to Nemiah Valley.”
Logging and forest fires in the area have not helped either, he noted.
“There aren’t really any trees to suck up the water.”
Baptiste noted updates will be provided as they become available.