The Ministry of Forests is inviting the public to comment on a proposal to build a connector road between the communities of Anahim Lake to Vanderhoof.
The proposed road would allow for travel directly from Anahim Lake to Highway 16, providing a secondary fire-exit route for First Nations communities and rural residents.
Beginning about 55 kilometres north of Anahim Lake at the end of the Dean River Road, the road would pass near Eliguk Lake, and connect to the end of the Kluskus Forest Service Road.
Readers commenting on the Tribune’s online version of this story have already raised concerns about the proposed road including that it would increase access to wildlife in an area where moose protection has been front and centre by First Nations, that it would increase crime and make more people vulnerable to the Highway of Tears and be remote and difficult to maintain in the winter.
“This will also help serial killers prey on more young people in remote communities, this will bring in more trafficking, not only that but more people will end up missing because of this connector,” noted Jazlynn Stump. “Is it really worth the risk? These remote communities are doing just fine without it, why allow a dangerous highway connect to ours? I don’t want to see the people in these remote communities end up going missing and murdered.”
Other readers noted they welcomed the idea saying it would be “fantastic,” take only four hours to travel to Prince George, that it would open up the mine for jobs and it should have been done years ago.
“As a resident of Bella Coola this is a great opportunity for safety to cut back travel time in a event of a fire or road closures,” noted Alicia Webber. “How is this any more dangerous than the roads from Bella Coola to Williams Lake? There got to be a lot of illegal stuff going on as well. The drugs still make it to all the small communities. It would bring more work and business to the locals. Building hotels, gas stations, camp grounds. List could go on.”
During a recent presentation to the Cariboo Regional District board about the proposed road, David Van Dolah, manager of the Stuart Nechacko District, said a road for the area has been studied since the mid-1990s.
A project team was put together in 2016. In March 2018, the ministry got the mandate from the deputy minister to go ahead and funding was allocated on July 30, 2018.
“Originally we were looking at opportunities to access New Gold’s Blackwater Mine, access for education, health care and access to the Highway 16 corridor,” Van Dolah said.
Van Dolah said the ministry is consulting with First Nations, stakeholders and the public, as well as undertaking environmental, heritage and recreation reviews before making a decision on whether to proceed with construction.
They’ve met with Ulkatcho First Nation at Anahim Lake and asked them to suggest some routes they felt would have the least impact on caribou and on their own culture, he added.
“Originally they gave us two main routes with a couple of potential options,” he said. “The biggest issues we are facing is crossing into core caribou habitat, and that both routes would cross the Alexander Mackenzie Trail and the Blackwater River and both of those are sensitive to recreation and trails and concerns about having too many crossings on those points that could allow public to misuse the area.”
There are numerous guide outfitters and adventure tourism lodges in the area as well, he added.
After Van Dolah’s presentation, Mayor Bob Simpson said Quesnel City Council already endorsed the road at a council meeting and agreed to send a letter of support.
“It is access for egress and in Kluskus’s case, six of the last 10 years they’ve been evacuated,” Simpson said.
Quesnel city council did have some questions about the road standards, Simpson added, to which Van Dolah responded it would be built to forest service road (FSR) standards but they would not be certified for nine-axle truck design.
Area G director and CRD vice-chair Al Richmond said the connector road has been a long-time coming.
“I applaud you for moving forward,” Richmond said. “It’s desperately needed.”
Area C director John Massier said the last two summers of wildfires have shown that rural communities need connections to be able to move quickly when necessary.
“It’s long overdue,” Massier said.
The public is encouraged to provide feedback by e-mail to the project manager, Erika Driedger, by Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, at: Erika.Driedger@gov.bc.ca.