Report on Balfour slide released
A Forest Practices Board report into a landslide near Balfour in May 2011 makes several recommendations to prevent similar slides.
The 15-page report, released Friday, looked at the Laird Creek slide which damaged the water supply to about 100 homes. It was caused by several factors, including logging by BC Timber Sales in the area a few years earlier.
Water users asked the board to investigate whether a lack of professional diligence contributed to the slide.
The report found BC Timber Sales’ practices were sound, and that it acted responsibly following the slide by conducting assessments, stabilizing the road and slide path and providing drinking water, even though it wasn't required to.
Since the slide, the Crown corporation has also developed a terrain stability model to help in risk assessments.
However, the report suggests four improvements to minimize the risk of similar landslides, including a “systematic, transparent, and well documented” decision-making process that considers the potential impact of logging and road building on the public.
The board also recommended any post-slide assessments strive to avoid any perception of bias. Residents were concerned the same consulting firm that prepared a drainage plan for the Laird Creek work also inspected the slide.
“In a system based on discretion, professional reliance and strong enforcement, there needs to be a high level of transparency — not only must the public interest be kept, it must be seen to be kept,” the report says.
The board further notes that even sound technical practices do not completely eliminate the risks.
“The case brings to light broader issues regarding public policy and decision making, including potential gaps in regulation that go well beyond this specific instance,” the report says, adding the board will examine those concerns separately, drawing on the results of this and other recent audits and investigations.
The Forest Practices Board is BC’s independent forestry watchdog.