B.C. Forests Ministry says it's not responsible for 2014 Enderby, B.C., landslide
Minister says forestry road was maintained and inspected but staff didn't keep proper record of it
The Minister for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says the ministry is not to blame for a landslide in Enderby, B.C. in 2014.
The landslide was triggered by a flood at Dale Lake. It washed out the Cooke Creek forestry road and heaped mud and debris onto an adjacent road, stranding 200 residents for two days.
The B.C. Forest Practices Board found the forestry road was not properly maintained, culverts were designed incorrectly and the ministry did not adequately respond to public complaints about the road.
The report stated the ultimate cause of the landslide was the failure of two culverts at the mouth of Dale Lake, triggering the flooding and subsequent landslide.
Tim Ryan, chair of the independent watchdog, said there were no road inspections or maintenance done between 2006 and 2014.
But Forests Minister Steve Thomson said that's not accurate. He said inspections and maintenance were done on the road but weren't recorded.
"Staff realize they need to do a better job of record-keeping," he explained.
Thomson said this incident was a specific situation, not a systemic problem. He pointed out his ministry oversees 55,000 kilometres of forest services road around the province which is "more roads than the Ministry of Transportation manages".
Nevertheless, he said he recognized the recommendations from the report, and his ministry will prepare a written response and action plan for the B.C. Forest Practices Board as requested.
He added the ministry is standing by its own investigation which said the likely cause of the flood was human tampering.
He said the RCMP is handling that investigation.
Neil Brookes, operations manager at the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre, expressed skepticism about the human tampering theory.
"Seven to nine million gallons of water, tons of rock and large debris in 20 minutes. Trying to determine the cause through evidence-based investigations after the fact is an extremely difficult and inconclusive task," he said.
The Kingfisher Interpretive Centre suffered extensive damage during the landslide. The centre filled up with mud, trails were washed out, and its salmon hatchery was destroyed.
But recovery is now complete and Brookes said he hopes future incidents can be prevented.
"There needs to be more attention paid to road maintenance on forest service roads and culverts," he said. "They're trying to do some of that stuff, but some of it just fell through the cracks."
The ministry has 30 days to file its response to the B.C. Forest Practices Board.
With files from Daybreak South
To hear the interviews, click on the link labelled Forests and Lands Minister Steve Thomson responds to a watchdog report on the 2014 Enderby landslide and Remembering the 2014 Enderby landslide