Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)

B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

B.C.’s 58,000 km of forest service roads are increasingly being kept open for residential, industrial and recreational access, and maintenance is not keeping up, Auditor General Michael Pickup says.

An audit of the Crown land resource road network found that of the inspected bridges and major culvert crossings on forest service roads, 48 per cent of high-priority repairs were overdue. The main reason was lack of money, as natural resource districts received only a quarter of the requested maintenance funds from 2017 to 2020.

“The ministry did not complete necessary maintenance and repairs on roads, bridges and major culverts,” Pickup said. “It is important to note that in 2019-20, natural resource districts only received about 25 per cent of their budget requests for maintenance on priority roads, and almost $9 million of high-priority maintenance and repair work went unfunded.”

In more than 500 cases, the load limits were reduced on crossings to reduce the risk of collapse or further damage. Pickup said the maintenance gap, and lack of records, presents environmental as well as safety risks.

In its response to the audit, the forests ministry accepted recommendations to improve record keeping and engineering assessment on the huge network of roads, with a new land management system that has been in development since May 2019. Its priorities have shifted in the past three years to roads that are maintained for ongoing access, in some cases the only access for remote communities.

“Historically, forest service roads were built, maintained and deactivated by the forest industry for log-haul purposes,” the ministry said in its response. “However, forest service roads are now more broadly used by the public, and government has had to re-examine its mandate, placing more focus on access to rural communities and residences, and wilderness access for commercial and recreational purposes.”

Pickup highlighted the Finlay Forest Service Road, B.C.’s longest at 420 km along the Williston reservoir on the Peace River, in the vast Mackenzie natural resource district.

“Since it provides the only road access to the remote Kwadacha (formerly Fort Ware) and Tsay Keh Dene Nations, and the only land-based escape route in the event of flooding or wildfires, maintaining it is important,” the audit states. “The district maintains approximately 208 km of the road, with the rest maintained by industrial road use permit holders.”

RELATED: B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests ministry

RELATED: Forest industry protests caribou protection plan

The evolution of B.C.’s vast forest road network is reflected in the ministry name, which is now officially the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

In his mandate letter to newly appointed Forests Minister Katrine Conroy, Premier John Horgan has directed that the ministry be split in two, reversing a consolidation that was completed during former premier Gordon Campbell’s tenure.

Newly elected Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen has been assigned the task of reorganizing the huge ministry into two government departments. That will leave Kootenay West MLA Conroy with a focus on forests and rural development as B.C.’s first female forests minister. Cullen, a long-time northwest B.C. MP appointed “minister of state” or assistant to Conroy, will likely end up in charge of the vast Crown lands and resource roads that wind through them.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man shot and killed by Tofino RCMP

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Visitors relax at the natural hot springs located within Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. (tofinohiking.com photo)
Maquinna Marine Provincial Park boardwalk project on track

“The walk down the two-kilometre boardwalk to the springs itself is by far one of the most incredible experiences.”

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino’s mayoralty candidates lay out key differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

This poster, spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19 restrictions, has been popping up in communities across Vancouver Island.
UPDATED: Poster popping up in Island communities falsely claiming COVID restrictions are over

Unattributed poster claims COVID restrictions ended March 1; Island Health responds

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

Most Read