Mountain instability forces closure of Highway 99

The Fountain (Xaxli’p) Indian Band declared a state of emergency, allowing the band to apply for funding to respond to the closure.

This unstable stretch of Highway 99 forced the closure of the road to Lillooet earlier this week.

This unstable stretch of Highway 99 forced the closure of the road to Lillooet earlier this week.

The BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure closed a stretch of Highway 99 north of Lillooet, and said early this week that it would remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Regional directors Mike Lorimer said the 10 Mile Slide area 15 kilometres north of Lillooet is historically unstable, but recently engineers have noted more movement than usual.

“It’s not actually that debris has come down onto the road. If you can picture the whole mountainside, the whole mountainside is moving out from underneath. So you are seeing a slippage away from the road,” said Lorimer.

Ministry officials predicted that the route would be closed at least through the weekend of Oct. 1 and 2, but the closure could be much longer.

“What we are seeing with this closure is a little bit faster movement than we would like to see, and a little more movement in a bit of a funny time of year. Our geotechnical engineers have been all over the site, looking at it, and as a precaution for safety we have closed it to vehicle traffic while we are monitoring it and looking to stabilize it there,” Lorimer said.

“If we can see something that is causing it, or if we see this dry weather stabilizing things sooner, we will certainly open the road as soon as possible. But we are definitely taking public safety here first.”

Meanwhile, the Fountain (Xaxli’p) Indian Band declared a state of emergency, which allowed the band to apply for emergency funding to respond to the closure. Many people in the area are frustrated because the closure cuts Lillooet off from communities, like Pavilion, to the north and east. The only access available is via a long detour through Lytton and Cache Creek.

“Xaxli’p supports the closure, and during this time of emergency we will be working closely with MOTI and the Regional District of Lillooet to make sure public safety comes first,’ said Xaxli’p Chief Darrell Bob. “Everyone’s involvement is crucial to restoring the highway to full operation because it is an important artery. If the road goes it will have immeasurable and irreversible impacts on our entire region.

The Ten Mile Slide has been a long-standing concern for Xaxli’p, and has been slated by MOTI for much-needed repair work in 2017.

“Right now, it is important that all parties, including those that operate the railway line, to honour the closure so that MOTI engineers are able to go in and effectively assess the cause of the aggressive deterioration,” said Chief Bob.