Lobbying efforts to get road conditions improved in the Bridge River valley near Lillooet appear to have paid off, with the announcement by B.C. Hydro that it is contributing $2.35 million to raising overall traffic safety standards in the area.
The Reservoir Safety Committee in Gold Bridge launched "an international boycott" against B.C. Hydro in October, citing frustration with the authoritys alleged refusal to accept responsibility for deaths in its Carpenter Reservoir. Eleven people have drowned there since 1980, as a result of the vehicles they were travelling in veering off Road 40 and into the reservoir.
B.C. Hydro announced Dec. 19 it will be working with the Ministry of Transportation and Highways on reservoir shoreline and riverbank erosion, road safety improvements and developing a road safety program. Under the funding breakdown, approximately $1 million will be used to rectify situations where Hydro operations at Carpenter Reservoir, Downton Reservoir and the lower Seton river may be affecting MoTH roads. Approximately $1.25 million will be channelled into upgrading Mission Mountain Road and Road 40 between Terzarghi Dam and Goldbridge. The remaining $100,000 will go towards a targeted road safety program for the Bridge River Valley.
B.C. Hydro senior vice president Blair Trousdell says the one-time voluntary grants recognize B.C. Hydros role as the largest corporation in the area.
"We have had a major impact on the region over the last 50 years and we have a strong commitment to working with the communities in the areas in which we operate."
B.C. Hydros position is a significant departure from a few months ago, when it stated publicly the maintenance of Road 40 is the responsibility of the Crown, not the corporation. At the time media relations spokesperson Wayne Cousins also suggested the way people were driving the road could be to blame.
B.C. Hydro Bridge River maintenance and operations service manager, Joe Zarin, says the work on the two public roads will also benefit B.C. Hydro-affiliated staff, who use them regularly for access to generation facilities.
The safety committee was not available for comment at the time of publication.