More than four years after a Cherryville landslide almost destroyed a home, provincial documents that shed light on the cause of the slide have been made public.
The reports backup what locals have feared all along – an upslope logging project helped trigger the slide.
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“I visited the area the day after the slide and I recognized all the same things the professionals recognized so it isn’t a surprise,” said Hank Cameron, Cherryville’s electoral area director.
Both Weyerhaeuser (WEYCO), which built logging roads in the area, and Tolko, which did the logging, have now been fined in connection with this slide.
In a compliance and enforcement report an investigator wrote that “Tolko’s harvesting on steep ground failed to maintain surface drainage which resulted in a landslide that caused damage to crown timber, soils, water, biodiversity and endangered the public.”
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The report went to say that “on the balance of probabilities that the landslide was caused by WEYCO’s failure to maintain surface water drainage patterns.”
Tolko is being penalized $12,000 while Weyerhaeuser has been fined $14,500.
“Tolko Industries takes our commitment to environmental stewardship very seriously and exercises due diligence in all of our forest management planning and harvesting activities,” wrote Tolko communication advisor Janice Lockyer.
Both companies have appealed and declined further comment pending the outcome of those appeals.
Cameron is questioning why it took years to get these answers.
“I think we need to have timely information and we have to have information that accurately portrays what is happening in resource management in our area,” he said.
“I’m disappointed the information has been suppressed by the provincial government.”
Residents have long been trying to get their hands on these documents with the assistance of an environmental law firm. In February, the province responded to their FOI request saying the documents they’d asked for were being withheld, but they were ultimately released at the end of July.
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The province has denied it attempted to suppress the documents and said it could not release the reports until the investigation was considered closed.
When it comes to landslide safety, the ministry responsible said it conducts routine inspections and since the landslide there has been a heightened awareness of the issue.