Watchdog report chides Interfor, government for logging road slide near Castlegar

Forest Practices Board says both could have done more to monitor and protect environment

A slump on the road in the Little Cayuse Creek area. Material deposited hundreds of cubic metres of earth into the creek, the Forest Practices Board estimated. Photo: Forest Practices Board

The province’s watchdog for forestry companies says Castlegar’s Interfor failed to properly maintain a road it built in the mountains north of the city. And it also found the provincial government didn’t do enough to monitor what the company was or wasn’t doing.

The Forest Practices Board says Interfor failed to live up to the rules of the Forest Planning and Practices Regulation when monitoring a road in the Little Cayuse Creek area near Castlegar.

“By not conducting regular inspections, Interfor did not ensure, or make certain, that there would be no material adverse effects on forest resources,” says the FPB, in a summary included its 2018-2019 annual report, released last month. The actual decision dates back to June 2018.

Further, “[g]overnment enforcement was not appropriate because it did not do sufficient work to determine if Interfor complied with section 79 of the Forest Planning and Practices Regulation,” the board ruled.

The FRB says the story began when a complainant, who has water, hydro power and irrigation rights on the creek, noticed excessive runoff in 2015 and 2017, and complained to the company about his drinking water being adversely affecrted.

Little Cayuse Creek, about 25 kilometres north of Castlegar, has fish and salmon spawning grounds. But the area has also been extensively logged since the 1960s, and there are dozens of kilometres of forest road that are both managed by Interfor, and some that are long abandoned.

The company last worked the Little Cayuse Creek watershed in 2011. But these days no roads in the watershed are being used for industrial activity.

Still, “Interfor must ensure the structural integrity of the road prism and clearing width and the function of the drainage systems only to the extent necessary to ensure there is no material adverse effect on a forest resource,” the board’s investigation says.

After the 2017 complaint (the company says it has no record of a contact in 2015) the company investigated and found two slides into the creek.

Interfor told the board it did inspect roads in the watershed by helicopter in 2014, 2015, and 2017, but could not provide any records to support where the inspections were or what it found.

“A helicopter inspection should at least document where they went and what they found in notes and photos,” the report says. “Such documentation would enable Interfor to do maintenance works before erosion or landslide events happen.

“In any event, there are no documented inspections and no maintenance or repair work was scheduled or completed as a result of these inspections.”

The FPB report also says the provincial oversight body, the Compliance and Enforcement Branch, didn’t do its job either in monitoring the situation or Interfor’s monitoring of the roads in its care.

The complainant went to the province to raise concerns, but the branch didn’t do very much, the FPB says.

“Compliance and Enforcement did not consider what inspections or maintenance Interfor had done, did not contact the complainant as requested, and did not interview Interfor as part of the inspection,” the report concludes.

After the complaints, the board notes Interfor started inspecting the roads and doing follow-up repair and maintenance work in the watershed.

But based on its findings, the board says there was a lot more the company and province should have done to correct the problem.

The Forest Practices Board ruling carries no fines or penalties for either the logging company or government.

Instead, its website says it works to promote public confidence in “sound forest practices” and “continuing improvements in forest and range practices.”

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