The photograph shows where a new CP line has been established to the east (right) of the washed-out overpass and rail line at Tank Hill on Highway 1 near Nicomen. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming says the hope is to have the highway through the canyon reopened by mid-January, 2022. (Photo credit: Facebook)

The photograph shows where a new CP line has been established to the east (right) of the washed-out overpass and rail line at Tank Hill on Highway 1 near Nicomen. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming says the hope is to have the highway through the canyon reopened by mid-January, 2022. (Photo credit: Facebook)

Work continues to reopen highways as extent of damage is revealed

Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon has an estimated reopening of mid-January 2022

The Province is beginning to get a clearer idea of the massive reconstruction work necessary to restore vital transportation links in southern B.C. in the wake of catastrophic flooding on the weekend of Nov. 14, while some residents of Merritt are being allowed back into the community and a resiliency centre has been set up to assist all flooding victims.

B.C.’s battered highways took another beating over the weekend, with several highways preemptively shut down in various sections due to the threat of more heavy rainfall and the potential of washouts and debris flows. As of press time on Nov. 30, most had reopened, although access is being restricted to commercial vehicles and essential travel only, and highways might have to close again due to what is anticipated to be heavy rainfall and high snow melt over Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

The CP mainline reopened through the Fraser Canyon last week, with both CP and CN trains running along the track while work was completed on restoring the CN mainline. The CP work involved a massive temporary rebuilding at Tank Hill near Nicomen, and the Province has said that Highway 1 — which passed beneath the CP mainline at that point — will be temporarily restored to cross the rail line at grade (level crossing).

Another large section of Highway 1 was washed out at Jackass Mountain, where work has started to put a temporary bridge in place at the site. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said at a press conference last week that it is estimated that Highway 1 through the canyon will reopen in mid-January, 2022. At the moment, it is only open as far north as Boothroyd, near Boston Bar.

“Temporary repairs are underway at Jackass Mountain,” Fleming said at a briefing Nov. 26. “Work is underway where a large section of two-lane road was completely wiped out in a landslide. At Tank Hill we’re working collaboratively with CP Rail to build a temporary detour where a landslide sheared off about 70 metres of two-lane road and damaged the railway.”

Work has also started on restoring damaged sections of the Coquihalla (Highway 5), with an estimated re-opening at the end of January, 2022. Fleming has said that these repairs will be temporary fixes only, to enable commercial vehicle traffic along the route.

Aerial surveys have shown that Highway 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt is the most extensively damaged highway in the province, with several kilometres of highway washed away and at least four bridges damaged or destroyed. Thirty-seven properties along the highway are under evacuation order, with several houses destroyed and other properties extensively damaged. One woman is missing after her house was swept away in the Nicola River, and debris from the area has been found as far down the Thompson River as Mission.

The extensive damage to the highway means that properties, and the homes on them, are inaccessible except from the air or (in a handful of cases) on foot through difficult terrain. Fleming said that various options are being explored to regain access, including possibly using forestry service roads.

There is no timeline as to when the highway might be restored, and Fleming has said that Highways 1 and 5 are priorities at this time.

Communication in Spences Bridge remains limited, after TELUS infrastructure along Highway 8 was destroyed. A portable cell tower allows limited emergency communication only.

Highway 1 is not subject to a travel order, but Fleming said only essential travel should be attempted. Highway 7 has been reopened to commercial trucks and residents only, and Highway 3 is now open from Hope to Princeton, but is subject to an essential travel order for trucks and people going to their primary residences. Highway 99 south of Lillooet is open for essential travel, with checkpoints in place and only vehicles up to 14,500 kg allowed, but on the afternoon of Nov. 30 the Ministry of Transportation announced it would be closing at 4 p.m. that day until further notice because of heavy rainfall predicted for the region.

Drivers on all open routes are urged to go slowly, watch for construction and damage, and have food, water, warm clothes, and other emergency supplies with them. For up-to-date highway information and travel advisories, go to www.drivebc.ca.

Some residents of Merritt are being allowed back in to their homes to begin clean-up work, while others in heavily flood-damaged areas are having to wait until it is deemed safe. The entire city of 7,000 was evacuated on Nov. 15 after massive flooding from the Coldwater River and the failure of the city’s wastewater treatment facility. The city remains under a boil water advisory, with limited services available.

The City of Merritt and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) have now opened a resiliency centre to provide ongoing support to flood-affected residents of the city, as well as those in the surrounding rural areas and First Nations communities. The centre is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Merritt Civic Centre (1950 Mamette Avenue).

The resiliency centre will help answer questions and provide resources for flood evacuees and residents returning home after flooding. The Red Cross and Emergency Support Services are on site, along with Disaster Financial Assistance and Disaster Psychosocial Services.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada and a number of insurance companies will be available to provide advice and help property owners file insurance claims. Other agencies that will have information available include Interior Health, the First Nations Health Authority, Service BC, Technical Safety BC, ICBC, TNRD/Merritt Debris Management, and Service Canada.

For more information, contact TNRD Resiliency Manager Dale Kronebusch at (250) 488-8039 (email tnrdrecovery@tnrd.ca).

The provincial state of emergency has been extended to Dec. 14, as has rationing of fuel in some southern parts of the province. There is no fuel rationing in effect in the Southern Interior.



editorial@accjournal.ca

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