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Residents voice slide concerns

Hatzic Prairie, Durieu, McConnell Creek Ratepayers Association president Sharie Conroy examines the rock in Pattison Creek. She worries any logging up stream will bring more debris to the area.  - Carol Aun photo
Hatzic Prairie, Durieu, McConnell Creek Ratepayers Association president Sharie Conroy examines the rock in Pattison Creek. She worries any logging up stream will bring more debris to the area.
— image credit: Carol Aun photo

Tamihi Logging Company (TLC) will be proceeding with plans to log 49 hectares of Crown land on the north side of Pattison Creek this year, according to TLC manager Ted Holtby.

Holtby and Westrek geologist Tim Smith met with Hatzic Valley residents last Thursday night at McConnell Creek Hall to explain the plan and listen to concerns including landslides.

About 75 residents attended the meeting to try to convince the logging company to reconsider its plans.

“We have opposite points of view,” said Holtby after the meeting. “We’re still proceeding. We have a right to be there.”

The harvest will be done by helicopter, said Holtby, who recognized the need for various levels of tree retention in the area.

“It’s a partial harvest,” he stated, noting the area will be separated into three blocks. About 85 per cent of trees will be removed from the largest block, and 35 per cent will be removed from each of the remaining two areas.

One helicopter will be used, and it will generally run seven days a week, weather permitting, explained Holtby, adding the aircraft will not operate before 7 a.m.

It’s difficult to predict how long logging will go on because the work is dependent on good weather, but if 800 cubic metres are harvested in an eight-hour work day, then logging should be finished in about 23 days, said Holtby, estimating 18 to 20 truckloads will be hauled out during weekdays.

Smith studied the ground in the area for six months and determined an old logging road built in the 1940s posed the biggest risk to the valley.

Unmaintained drainage structures are impeding drainage patterns on the mountain, which increases the likelihood of a landslide initiated along the route, he said, recommending deactivation of the road, which would require an excavator to stabilize the hill.

Such plans would have to be discussed with the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations as well as the Scowlitz First Nations, which holds the licence for the area.

With the road deactivated, Smith said he is confident the slide risk is low.

“What [TLC is] doing, in my professional opinion, won’t increase the risk of a slide,” said Smith.

But area residents disagreed.

“There are huge water problems when it rains hard,” said one speaker. “You’ll never see them if you don’t go there when it rains … chances are something will happen if you log it. Even if you don’t log, there’s still a problem. It’s a safety risk up there.”

There are 14 creeks in the Hatzic Valley that run into Legace Creek, just north of Dale Road. Pattison is the largest water course in that system, and it flows into Hatzic Lake before reaching the Fraser River.

“We have water coming down too fast to a creek that’s already full of sediment,” maintained Sharie Conroy president of Hatzic Prairie, Durieu and McConnell Creek Ratepayers Association. “The water can’t get to Hatzic Lake fast enough, so it floods.”

No logging should be considered until the creeks are cleaned and a plan is in place to keep them clean, said Conroy.

Residents pointed to 2003 flooding as an example of their worst fears, when half a dozen creeks, including Pattison and Legace, spilled their banks as rocks rolled down the mountainside.

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson said a lot of money has been spent on drainage already, but the problem is ongoing because the slopes of Durieu Ridge within the Cascade watershed, of which Pattison Creek is a part, are naturally unstable.

There have been 184 landslides in the Hatzic Valley region between 1952 and 2005. According to the report, authored by Tom Millard, research geomorphologist, 134 of those were related to forestry activity, and only 10 have occurred since 1993.

TLC could begin removing trees from the area as early as mid-May.

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