The Carmanah Mainline serves as the main access road into and out of the Ditidaht First Nation’s village locally referred to as Malachan Reserve. Every winter for decades the banks of the Nitinat River overflow and the road floods, limiting travel to Lake Cowichan and Port Alberni, and effectively stranding the community.
For years, Ditidaht Development Corporation has been searching for a solution.
While the province did provide funds for a feasibility study, no further commitment was made.
“This past winter was the worst one,” said Ditidaht First Nation Chief Councillor Brian Tate. “We had elders stuck in the middle of the flooding, they couldn’t go backward or forward.”
Determined to fix the problem, “we went ahead on our own,” Tate said.
The project, an emergency bypass road, is estimated to cost $1.7 million.
“The road will be going around the flood zone and up and over a hill,” explained Tate. “It creates a safety travel zone for our community members to go in and out of to get to the grocery store and to other places safely during the winter months when our road is flooded.”
The plans call for a 2.8 km road from the village to the Lake Cowichan junction. The road will have a finished surface, include one culvert and one bridge, and will have a 30 km/h speed limit.
While the Ditidaht Development Corporation will use proceeds from their forestry and other revenue sources to move forward with the goal of completion before the winter 2022 flood season, they’ll be getting some help from San Group.
“San Group gave us $350,000 and machines and man hours to operate the machines to help us out,” Tate confirmed.
San Group is one of the largest privately owned forestry companies in B.C. with four mills and over half a billion board feet of milling capacity, plus their newly built flagship value added manufacturing plant of more than 300,000 sq.ft located in Port Alberni.
“Imagine not being able to have access to your home or having emergency services restricted. Safe, reliable access to all our communities is something we all deserve. It should not be considered a luxury,” said Kamal Sanghera co-owner of San Group.
The Ditidaht Nation has tendered out packages for the road construction work and Coastal Bridge Construction was contracted to complete the project.
“I’m happy this solution is coming to fruition and it’ll be a less worrisome concern for safety for people here in the community,” Tate said. “It’s taken a long time and we’ve finally come up with a solution. I believe the work started yesterday (July 27),” he said.