The bus involved in a crash on Bamfield Road on Friday, Sept. 13 is towed away from the scene. PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS VANCOUVER ISLAND

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

Ombusman’s specific concerns re-surface in wake of bus crash that killed two students

The author of a 2008 report on the safety of B.C.’s logging roads is accusing the province of ignoring his findings, in the wake of the fatal bus crash near Bamfield.

Ombudsperson Roger Harris’s report on “resource roads,” or logging roads, contained 17 recommendations to improve maintenance and safety, following 16 related deaths in three years.

Many of them have been adopted, but not what Harris calls his “cornerstone” recommendation – the creation of a new designation for logging roads that serve as a community’s primary or secondary access roads.

This designation would have “clearly defined standards” for maintenance, construction and enforcement. Roads would be funded similarly to the public highway system.

In his report, he specifically brought up Bamfield Road, concerned by the fact that thousands of students and researchers were using it each year to get to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. It’s also regularly used by Bamfield residents, tourists and members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

Last Friday, a bus carrying 48 people, most of them students from the University of Victoria, was on its way to the marine sciences facility when it crashed down an embankment on Bamfield Road. Two students were killed.

READ MORE: Two killed after bus crashes taking university students to Bamfield

READ MORE: Bamfield Road safety concerns resurface after fatal bus crash

And the report crossed Harris’ desk again.

“Regretfully, for all the wrong reasons,” he said on Thursday, Sept. 19.

In a recent statement, the Ministry of Transportation said the issue is complex because the province doesn’t own the road. Private companies own and main it for forestry operations.

But Harris argued it hasn’t been primarily used as a logging road for many years.

“These roads were originally built for a single purpose: To move logs,” he said. “But as these [logging] camps become communities, those roads become multi-purpose. The Bamfield Road is one of the best examples. A logging camp, it’s not. But it’s still under the same road system as a logging camp.”

Bamfield is not the only B.C. community served by resource roads. The villages of Tahsis and Zeballos on Vancouver Island are only accessible by mostly gravel logging roads, as well as numerous First Nations communities in the Interior.

Harris’ 2008 report said resource roads have become an extension of the public highway system.

“People living in these communities should have the same equitable treatment that you and I have,” he added on Thursday. “If you live in Bamfield, you have no idea what the condition of the road is going to be when you leave your house in the morning.”

The road doesn’t necessarily need to be paved, Harris said. But ownership should be transferred to the government, with clear requirements for maintenance.

A petition started by one the crash survivors asks for road conditions to be improved between Port Alberni and Bamfield. As of Thursday morning, it had more than 7,000 signatures.

READ MORE: Bus crash survivor petitions Justin Trudeau to fix road from Port Alberni to Bamfield

But Harris fears that while public pressure might lead to improvements, nothing will change for the many other communities that use private resource roads as their primary access.

“We see things like medical facilities, hospitals, schools … Those are essential public services that governments provide,” he said. “A road that gets you to and from your home is equally an essential service.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan mentioned the 2008 report on Thursday, acknowledging that the Bamfield road is an “age-old problem.” He also noted that the road is privately owned and under the purview of Western Forest Products.

“It is used by the public and we’re going to have to find a way forward,” he said. “It’s terrible that a tragedy where two lives were lost had to focus our attention on it, but I know that we’re going to be working…to try to find a way.

“Kids travel to Port Alberni on that road every day to go to school,” he added. “If that’s not enough to see action, I don’t know what is.”



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to campaign in Port Alberni

Singh joins Courtenay-Alberni candidate for rally to kick off final weekend before election

Comox Valley Regional District agrees to Union Bay governance study

Process will consider whether community should convert services to the region

Betties face some bumps from Cumberland Rec Centre deal

Roller derby group gets hit with schedule changes, rental hikes as ‘team’ rather than ‘drop-in’ program

Infrastructure upgrades will mean truck traffic increase around 19 Wing Comox

Over the coming weeks and months, the public may see an increase… Continue reading

ELECTION 2019: Have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really cut middle-class taxes?

Conservative Andrew Scheer vows to cut bottom bracket, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh targets wealth tax

Everything you need to know before getting the flu shot

Island pharmacist shares concerns, recommendations before flu season hits

‘Sky didn’t fall:’ Police, lawyers still adjusting after pot legalization

Statistics Canada says 541 people were charged under the federal Cannabis Act between Oct. 17, 2018 and the end of the year

Fewer people prescribed opioids in B.C., but other provinces lack data: doctors

Patients who began taking opioids were prescribed smaller doses for shorter duration

Electric cello, stolen from vehicle in Williams Lake, returned to U.S. owner

Rita Rice of Texas said she and her husband had given up hope of ever seeing it again

Vancouver Island’s West Coast going wild about cycling

Ongoing project will tie Tofino and Ucluelet together with a paved cycling trail

Drop, cover and hold on: Thousands of British Columbians to take part in earthquake drill

This year’s drill comes as scientists announce discovery of ‘stormquakes,’ an earthquake and hurricane

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Frustration and pride in Canada after a year of legal pot

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

Most Read