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

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

Forty-eight vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

The two suspects arrested south of 150 Mile House Tuesday, March 2, following a high-speed chase with the RCMP have been charged. (Will Roberts photo)
High-speed chase suspects charged, remain in custody after arrest south of Williams Lake

John Craig and Maggie M. Higgott appeared in Williams Lake Provincial Court March 4

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

Most Read