Balfour slide report criticized
In a letter to the board, John Beerbower, who has long worked in planning for the West Arm demonstration forest, says the report “fails to ensure accountability for the flaws” in roadbuilding and logging by BC Timber Sales that were identified as contributing to the Laird Creek slide.
The slide damaged the water supply to about 100 homes, forcing residents to use bottled water for a few months. Problems reoccured last spring due to erosion.
The 15-page report, released last month, came in response to a complaint from water users who asked for an investigation into whether a lack of professional diligence was to blame.
While the report made several recommendations to prevent future slides, it concluded BC Timber Sales’ practices were sound and that it acted responsibly following the slide.
Beerbower says although the report suggests ways to improve assessment and decision-making processes, it takes a “very narrow view” of the professional recommendations that need to be considered.
“This report fails to demonstrate the capability and/or willingness of the Forest Practices Board to ensure accountability in a case where the necessary result of protecting domestic water was clearly not met,” Beerbower wrote.
Fellow complainant Al Walters said for water users the report is “unacceptable on a number of levels” and “represents another significant failure to address our concerns.”
“It leaves us with the conclusion that the minimal regulations affecting forest licensees offer no real safeguards for water quality in domestic watersheds,” he said in prefacing a series of questions to the board.
Many things the complainants objected to in an interim report remained in the final version, Walters added. “To our dismay, this final report seems to conclude the landslide was actually an acceptable outcome.”
Bill Wells, a retired terrain specialist from Kaslo, was also sharply critical of the findings, saying the report justifies failures so long as professionals involved demonstrate due diligence.
“If forest licencees managers can demonstrate they tried within regulations to operate without harming downstream (licensed) users but failure occurs anyway, it is just too bad,” he said. “This is a third world system, in my view.”
BC Timber Sales local manager Shane Bowden said the Crown corporation is pleased the board’s investigation found their operational and technical practices sound.
“We also appreciated that the board found BC Timber Sales to have acted in a responsible manner after the slide event,” he said. “However, we remain concerned the slide occurred, despite our best professional efforts and that water users were negatively affected.”
Bowden said they’re taking the board’s recommendations seriously and using lessons learned from the Laird Creek experience to improve their planning and operations.
Last fall, BC Timber Sales deactivated the road upslope of the unstable area and seeded the slide channel with grass to minimize the risk of another slide.