Water flows along a former logging road in an area of concern for BC Timber Sales are captured in this photo shared with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board of directors during its April 21 meeting. (BC Timer Sales photo)

Water flows along a former logging road in an area of concern for BC Timber Sales are captured in this photo shared with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board of directors during its April 21 meeting. (BC Timer Sales photo)

Old logging roads, culverts part of mitigation work planned during salvage harvest near Sicamous

BC Timber Sales responds to debris flow concerns in wildfire-damaged watersheds

Salvage harvesting and other proposed works will help mitigate debris flow hazards in the Wiseman Creek and Sicamous Creek watersheds, according to BC Timber Sales (BCTS).

Representatives of the B.C. government agency gave a presentation to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board on April 21 – subsequent to the board’s receipt of a letter from BCTS planning forester Grace Chomitz explaining why salvage logging should proceed in the watersheds.

The BCTS letter was in response to a request from the board for a moratorium on logging in the watersheds, so as not to exacerbate the risk of a debris flow (a result of the Two Mile Road wildfire in 2021) as determined in a study conducted for the CSRD by BGC Engineering.

Subsequent to the sharing of BGC’s findings, the CSRD’s Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP) has been working with the District of Sicamous to support residents of the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home park which is in the path of the anticipated debris flows.

BGC recommended no salvage logging take place in areas affected by the Two Mile Road wildfire until 2024, when the situation can be reassessed.

During the BCTS presentation, Chomitz explained hydrological function in areas impacted by the 2021 blaze is already reduced, and “post-fire conditions are contributing to a high hazard rating that includes a legacy network of non-status roads and trails that were not deactivated.”

“These roads and trails are disrupting the drainage patterns and impacting the slope stability in the area,” said Chomitz. “There’s a large amount of hydrophobic soils (soils that repel water), as well as very little surviving vegetation. It has been indicated further landslide activity in this area is expected.”

Read more: Province likely to proceed with salvage logging in ‘high geohazard risk’ areas near Sicamous

Read more: Sicamous council joins call for logging moratorium in watershed impacted by wildfire

Read more: Province to fund early warning system for landslide risk to Sicamous mobile park

Chomitz shared several photos, taken in the watersheds, of old logging roads and culverts that have either been compromised or have diverted the flow of water. She said there are 16 points of concern in the watersheds that the BCTS hopes to address as part of the proposed salvage logging operation.

“All of these points of concern offer the opportunity to make the watershed more resilient – BCTS is currently working on a plan to fix these legacy concerns within the watershed,” said Chomitz. “We’re able to address these concerns because of our salvage harvesting operation.”

Asked if the mitigation work could be done without harvesting, BCTS woodlands supervisor Wes Wolfe explained the harvesting work provides access to those points of concern.

“A lot of the trails you saw in the pictures there, they’re 1950s and ’60s vintage, and some of them have burnt fir trees to a diameter of almost 40 centimetres growing down the centre line,” said Wolfe. “To get to these areas, we basically need to run a buncher down to clear them, and then run excavators in to deactivate them, and it just makes more sense to do that as part of a salvage program versus on its own because it’s very hard to get the timber out of there and recover any value otherwise.”

Electoral Area E (Rural Sicamous) director Rhona Martin said the abandoned roads and culverts are a concern throughout the province and wondered how many communities could be at risk.

“I think if I was one of the residents living in the mobile home park below, I would be somewhat fearful of you going up there and doing anything right now,” said Martin. “I’m glad that you’re willing to go and meet with the District of Sicamous and do a presentation to them, and perhaps they can talk to the people there and see what they think.”

Asked to explain the differences in the data, and recommendations, shared by BGC and what BCTS is basing its decisions on, Michael Milne, a hydrologist with M.J. Milne & Associates Ltd. (which conducted a terrain stability and hydrologic assessment of the watersheds), explained BGC’s findings assumes there won’t be anything done to address the issues identified.

“Our assessments assume that the work is going to be successfully done and that we are going to mitigate the hazard side of the equation, as we call it, and that will give us a lower risk,” explained Milne. “That is the difference. One is without any intervention and the other is with intervention, and we know from experience that we can mitigate a lot of it if we can get in there.”

At the start of April SEP initiated an early warning system and related protocols for residents of Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park.

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Columbia Shuswap Regional District