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

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

Jordan Martin, manager of the Nelson and District Youth Centre which runs the parkade, in the new secure bike parking facility that will open in June. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Jordan Martin, manager of the Nelson and District Youth Centre which manages the parkade, in the new secure bike parking facility that will open in June. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Secure bike parking to open in Nelson parkade in June

Facility is free, will take 21 bikes, and has a charging station

L.V. Rogers student Nicolaj Bucher plays the trumpet as part of five-piece jazz ensemble LVJ5. Unable to perform live, the group recorded an album instead. Photo: Tyler Harper
Unable to perform live, L.V. Rogers jazz group instead records debut album

LVJ5 has released Lockdown Fever on streaming services

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue volunteers doused a hillside fire late Monday night, May 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks Fire/Rescue puts out hillside fire

No one was injured after a campfire got out of control below Columbia Drive

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

Relief is coming for B.C.’s struggling tourism sector. (NEWS file photo)
B.C. officials set to announce more support for tourism sector hit hard by pandemic

Non-essential travel is restricted between three regional zones in B.C. until at least May 24

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from “F9.” (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)
The blockbuster movie is making a comeback this summer

Excitement in the industry is growing again for a return to a big-screen normal

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue’s Dave Paulett hoses down a section of a wooden retaining wall which caught fire Monday, May 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Fire starts in Grand Forks backyard after by oily rags left in sun

Flames put out before reaching home on 800-block of 72nd Avenue

Most Read