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In-SHUCK-ch access road blocked by landslide

First Nation communities stranded by slide



Heavy rains on Monday evening are believed to be the cause of a landslide that has blocked the In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road, cutting off road access to some First Nation communities.

In a news release issued Tuesday, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) said a large slide came down Cataline Creek at the six-kilometre point of the road, affecting access to the Lillooet Lake Estates subdivision and closing access to the Lower Stl'atl'imx communities, also known as the In-SHUCK-ch communities.

A geotechnical engineer with the B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range, as well as representatives from the SLRD and the Lower Stl'atl'imx Tribal Council (LSTC) flew over the area on Tuesday to assess the damage before any further action was to be taken.

The SLRD activated its Emergency Operations Centre upon hearing of the slide. Ryan Wainwright, the SLRD's EOC coordinator, said officials don't yet have a picture of how thick the slide was but added the road could be open by the weekend.

"It's one heck of a lot smaller than Meager, to the point that it can all be cleared up within about two days," he said, referring to an Aug. 6 landslide that happened about 70 kilometres north of the Pemberton Meadows and has been called the second biggest in Canadian history.

The slide at Cataline Creek started at approximately 6,000 feet, bringing a "fair amount of debris" down in a slurry that hit a bridge at about 6.5 kilometres and spread over 100 feet.

"At the highest point it was about 10 feet," Wainwright said.

He went on to say that a cleanup effort has already commenced on the road. The Ministry of Forests and Range will foot the bill for any repairs on the road, although Wainwright didn't know how much it would cost. He said the road is already clear up to the bridge and an engineer will visit on Wednesday to determine whether it's safe to cross with heavy equipment.

"Before we put an excavator on the bridge, we want to check with an engineer and pronounce the bridge safe," he said. "Our expectation is it's going to pass the assessment. That'll free up the FSR, that'll free up use for Lillooet Lake Estates residents and the Lower Stl'atl'imx communities."

Nigel Protter, the LSTC's interim administrator, is concerned that First Nation communities are stranded behind the slide. The In-SHUCK-ch FSR is the only access route out of those communities.

"People with medical needs, babies without milk, they have to come into town for everything," he said. "The road out of Harrison, it's 4x4 only, it's extremely rough and often unpassable, so this is their only effective route out."

Cataline Creek isn't the only place that experienced flooding this week. High water in the Lillooet and Ryan Rivers resulted in the Upper Lillooet Forest Service Road being washed out and the Pemberton Meadows is experiencing high water due to debris flowing in both rivers.

Wainwright said the Upper Lillooet FSR has been washed out at the 12 kilometre point and all areas experiencing flooding are being addressed by a road contractor. The Ministry of Forests and Range has also been notified.

Asked whether the high water levels have to do with debris from the Meager slide, Wainwright couldn't say for sure, but he said heavy rains earlier this week contributed heavily to the water levels.