August 08, 2016 - 11:45 AM
CHERRYVILLE - Improper drainage structures directly contributed to a landslide in a North Okanagan community, according to information obtained through Freedom of Information requests.
The slide happened in 2012 in a logging area known as Cherry Ridge, in Cherryville, and came close to a residence below the ridge, area director Hank Cameron says.
Ever since, local residents and politicians have been pressuring the provincial government to release its findings on the cause of the slide. Those reports were finally released this month in response to Freedom of Information requests filed by West Coast Environmental Law, which worked on behalf of Cherryville residents.
According to a report by the Ministry of Forests, a lack of properly placed drainage structures directly contributed to the slide. Due to the slide investigation, the ministry issued penalties against two companies responsible for timber harvesting activities in the area. A fine of $14,500 was handed to Weyerhaeuser and $12,000 against Tolko Industries.
“I’m very disappointed the provincial government would suppress this information,” Cameron says. “Obviously it deals with peoples’ safety and the security of their properties.”
The newly released information is bolstering concerns around current and proposed logging activities on the ridge, Cameron says.
“Tolko has plans for cut blocks on Cherry Ridge immediately adjacent to and above other private properties and so those landowners have been very concerned about their security living under this threat of a landslide,” Cameron says.
Cameron insists the province needs to take Cherryville’s interests into account when developing cut blocks in the future.
“I think when it comes to geotechnical maters we need to be very professional and maybe have a higher level of long-term stewardship,” Cameron says.
Weyerhaeuser and Tolko, meanwhile, are appealing the penalties.
“Tolko Industries takes our commitment to environmental stewardship very seriously and exercises due diligence in all of our forest management planning and harvesting activities,” the company stated in a written response. “We have been notified of the ministry’s determination and have filed an appeal of the administrative decision with the Forest Appeals Commission. Tolko will be reserving further comment until the Forest Appeals Commission’s appeal process is complete.”
Weyerhaeuser has also filed an appeal with the B.C. Forest Appeals Commission.
“We have not heard yet when the appeal will be heard. Until the appeal has been heard and a decision made, we will not comment,” the company says in a release.
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