Laird Creek water users walk on the re-contoured logging road in June, up-slope of a 2011 landslide. Photo: Al Walters

Laird Creek logging road: forest ministry will peer review slope stability study after all

But the ministry won’t fund a separate independent study

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has changed its mind.

Last month a spokesperson for the ministry told the Star the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) never requested an independent assessment of terrain stability in the Laird Creek drainage near Balfour.

When the Star responded by forwarding a letter written in May from the RDCK to the ministry requesting just such an assessment, the spokesperson replied, “My apologies for the confusion. A regional geomorphologist with the ministry will peer review Cooper Creek Cedar’s terrain stability report during the cutting permit review process.”

2011 landslide

Cooper Creek Cedar wants to reopen a logging road that traverses the Laird Creek drainage in order to reach a new cut block. The construction and location of the road is widely believed to have been the cause of a slide in 2011 that plugged a number of rural water systems below it. The company that built the road a few years before that, BC Timber Sales, temporarily provided drinking water to about 100 homes after the slide.

Ramona Faust, who represents the area on the RDCK board, says the 2011 Laird Creek landslide happened after consultant Greg Utzig, working for the ministry, recommended against building the road but the company went ahead and built it anyway. After the landslide, this was reported to the watchdog Forest Practices Board, which decided (amid some local controversy) that BC Timber Sales had done nothing wrong.

Since then, the process known as the professional reliance model has come into effect and expert studies are commissioned by the timber company, in this case Cooper Creek Cedar, not the ministry.

An expert hired by Cooper Creek Cedar has done a terrain stability study related to the reopening of the road.

The meaning of ‘independent’

A peer review by ministry staff of the existing study commissioned by Cooper Creek Cedar is not good enough for the Laird Creek Water Users group. They want a new review conducted by an independent expert, because they say they’ve been down this road before.

“We told Ramona Faust that we’re not interested in a ‘peer review’ by ministry staff,” Al Walters wrote in an email to the Star this week, “because we had exactly that during the planning for the road and block that caused the 2011 landslide.

“The ministry peer review by their geo-morphologist and hydrologist was not thorough in our opinion, and stated explicitly that a landslide was not likely to occur right in the area that it eventually happened. Following that experience, we don’t see the ministry as ‘independent’ in any functional, meaningful sense.”

Is a peer review by ministry staff of Cooper Creek Cedar’s existing study good enough for the RDCK, or does it want a new study by an outsider?

That’s unclear. RDCK chair Aimee Watson told the Star they did not make the distinction when the board requested that a review be undertaken.

“We never specified. If [the ministry] was willing to provide community safety assurance through third party assessment, that was our goal. We did not get to a point where we debated if in-house would still erode trust and thus need to be outsourced.”

As for the ministry, a spokesman told the Star this week that it would not fund an independent study.

Related:

• Report on Balfour slide released

• Balfour slide report criticized

• RDCK to write to forest minister about Laird Creek logging

• Laird Creek residents still hoping for independent report on logging road

Faust thinks the province should provide intervenor funding in such situations.

“If BC Hydro or a utility is going to put up their rates there is a process for everyone to comment and for research to be funded. And here we have millions of dollars worth of real estate that basically becomes useless or people have to incur individual costs of trying to drill wells when they built with the understanding there was potable water.

“So we have a situation where one investment is seen as better than another, and I think that is out of balance. If there is an opportunity to comment on utility rates because it is public trust, then I believe that there should be intervenor funding for communities.”

Just Posted

Nelson and Rossland accepted as interveners in Supreme Court of Canada carbon pricing case

Victoria, Vancouver, Squamish, and Richmond also have intervener status

GREG SCOTT: Kootenay Lake’s West Arm freezes over

From the files of the Nelson Daily News

COLUMN: Mark your calendars for library’s centennial

The Nelson Library was founded in 1920 and will celebrate on Jan. 17

Rapping mom busts rhymes for Castlegar rec centre kid’s drop-in

Funny video with important message about importance of service

CP Holiday Train headed to Castlegar

The festive food bank fundraiser will take place December 12.

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

Nearly 80% of the domestic violence victims who reported to police last year were women

Most Read