British Columbia

Watchdog chides government for role in 2014 Enderby, B.C., landslide

In a new report, the B.C. Forest Practices Board found the government did not properly maintain a road associated with the 2014 flood and landslide that stranded 200 people near Enderby, B.C.

Government did not maintain forestry road and designed culverts improperly, report says

A landslide triggered by flooding took out power lines, a bridge and the roadway on Mabel Lake Road about 25 kilometres east of Enderby, B.C. on May 2, 2014. (Jeff Bassett/Canadian Press)

In May 2014, heavy flooding at Dale Lake triggered a landslide that washed out a forestry road and bridge near Enderby, B.C., in the north Okanagan.

With the Cooke Creek forestry road washed out, and mud and debris forced onto adjacent Mabel Lake Road, nearly 200 residents were cut off and 700 were left without power. A local salmon hatchery was also destroyed.

The area was impassable for two days.

The Regional District of North Okanagan initially said an ice-lodged beaver dam burst, causing the flood and landslide.

A subsequent report in 2015 from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources said human tampering with the culverts — large pipes that drain water — led to the sequence of events.

Now a report from the B.C. Forest Practices Board, the province's independent forestry watchdog, says the province should have done more to maintain the Cooke Creek forestry road and its culverts.

Steps missed

Tim Ryan, the chair of the B.C. Forest Practices Board, said while good regulations existed, they were not properly followed.

The board found B.C. Timber Sales, the Ministry-based licensee responsible for managing the forestry road, was required to do annual inspections on the structural integrity of the road as well as its drainage structures.

Instead, it discovered there were no road inspections nor any maintenance between 2006 and 2014.

A blocked culvert (left), pictured on July 2013. Though the culvert on the right is clear, rust marks show how high the flow of water has been in the past. (B.C. Forestry Practices Board)

The board also said the culverts installed did not meet standards.

"There were a couple of steps here that were missed. The regular inspection of the culvert, the maintenance of it, as well as the proper design of the drainage structure to ensure that we minimize the risk," he said.

Ryan said the Ministry and B.C. Timber Sales now have 30 days to respond with what actions they will take to ensure their own regulations are adequately followed.

Citizen complaint triggered investigation

The investigation was triggered by a concerned public citizen who said he had warned staff at the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources the culverts on the forestry road needed more maintenance.

Ryan said this person made three complaints between June 2012 and June 2013, often with photographic evidence.

In response, a culvert was cleaned out on one occasion, but there was no action taken on the others.

He said the Ministry's response was inadequate.

Ryan recommended that the Ministry make improvements to the way public concerns and complaints are dealt with.

Ministry of Transportation workers examine a large pile of debris that took out the bridge and road after the May 2014 flood and landslide. (Jeff Bassett/Canadian Press)

With files from Daybreak South

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Forestry watchdog chides government for role in 2014 Enderby, B.C. flood