Stakeholders met in Anacla on Thursday, Nov. 14 to discuss improvements to the Bamfield road. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Province announces $30M plan for deadly Vancouver Island logging road

Gov’t announcement comes as first anniversary of UVic student deaths approaches

Bamfield Road will be getting a $30-million upgrade, one year after two University of Victoria students died when the bus they were riding in rolled off the gravel road.

Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser, also Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, made the announcement Friday, Sept. 11 from Victoria. The province will spend $25.7 million with $5 million coming from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, whose territory includes Anacla and Bamfield on Vancouver Island’s west coast. The Huu-ay-aht will oversee the project with technical support from consulting firm Urban Systems.

The 76-kilometre unpaved industrial road will be chipsealed, which the Huu-ay-aht determined was the best way to make it safe. Chipsealing will give it a hard surface, but is not the same as paving it. The road is the main ground transportation link between Port Alberni, Bamfield and Anacla for medical, emergency and community access. It is the only road access to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, and is considered the gateway to the West Coast Trail—meaning people from all over the world drive it to get to the trailhead.

READ: John Horgan promises action after fatal mid-Island bus crash

Students John Geerdes of Iowa City, Iowa and Emma MacIntosh Machado, 18, from Winnipeg were en route to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Sept. 13, 2019, when their bus rolled off the road and down an embankment. There were 48 people on board, including the driver when the bus crashed at the 36-kilometre mark. Three were airlifted to hospital in critical condition and numerous others were injured.

Following the fatal crash, the provincial government struck a working group with Huu-ay-aht First Nations and local forest companies to discuss safety upgrades.

The UVic students were the latest to die on Bamfield Road, but they weren’t the first. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations have lost eight members over the past two decades to accidents, and more who have been injured. Tayii Hawil (Hereditary Chief) Derek Peters said his grandfather was killed in an accident on Bamfield Road.

“A lot of lives have been lost on that road,” Peters said.

“Our nation was forever changed when Tayii Hawil Art Peters, my grandfather, was killed on Bamfield Road. It is tragic that it took the loss of so many to highlight the need for chipsealing the road, but we honour the ones we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent the loss of life along this vital link in the future.”

Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. said two people have in the past few months been in collisions with logging trucks due to excessive dust on the gravel road.

Stakeholders have criticized the amount of time it has taken for this announcement. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations, whose territory comprises Anacla, a community right next to Bamfield, have been asking for 20 years for improvements. They have lost eight members in crashes along the road in that time.

Fraser said he has spent 16 years in various political roles trying to get the governments of the day to act. He blamed confusion over jurisdiction for the delay. “It’s fallen through the cracks in the system,” he said.

“What I was told by the previous government is it wasn’t their responsibility because of the ownership issues.”

READ: Forestry watchdog warned B.C. government about Bamfield Road in 2008

Status of the road will not change, he added, although the Huu-ay-aht will oversee maintenance. The road’s designation will also not change despite a recommendation in 2008 by BC Forest Safety Ombudsperson Roger Harris to create a new designation for logging roads that serve as a community’s primary or secondary access road.

Fraser said the announcement is part of the BC government’s COVID revitalization plan. No construction timeline has been set—the treasury board only approved the project a week ago, he noted. “We need to get shovels in the ground very quickly.”



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictBamfieldPORT ALBERNITransportation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Marlene King and her granddaughter KK with the bench she installed in memory of her late husband, artist Marven Tallio (Caitlin Thompson photo).
New downtown bench honours late Nuxalk artist

Renowned Nuxalk artist Marven Tallio passed away in 2018

BC Liberal Party candidate for the North Coast Roy Jones Jr. will hold virtual face-to-face meetings for North Coast communities on Oct. 18. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
BC Liberal Candidate Roy Jones Jr, will meet constituents virtually

Face to face conversations will be held on Oct. 18 for North Coast communities

The rockslide occurred just east of Firvale before Snowshoe Creek (photo submitted)
Heavy rain causes mud, debris on Highway 20

Environment Canada had issued a rainfall warning on Thursday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
2 years after huge highway acid spill, Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Most Read