The In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road was cleared 36 hours after a debris torrent flowed across it, giving road access back to First Nation communities located southeast of Pemberton.
Heavy rains on the evening of Sept. 27 are believed to have caused a rock and mud slide into Cataline Creek, blocking the road at the six-kilometre mark and obstructing access to the Lillooet Lake Estates subdivision and the First Nation communities of Skatin, Samahquam, Baptiste Smith and Douglas.
An excavator helped clear the road above and below a bridge located at the 6.5 kilometre mark and an engineer soon after gave the okay to open it again.
About 20,000 cubic metres of debris are believed to have flowed into Cataline Creek, according to a geoscientist who flew over the slide in a helicopter last week.
Ryan Wainwright, director of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's Emergency Operations Centre, said in an interview that enough debris fell into Cataline Creek to divert the channel. The creek had to be cleared out in order for the stream to return to its regular course.
The slide, he said, caused some damage in Lillooet Lake Estates, knocking out some sheds and gardens but there was no loss of any inhabited homes.
"Cataline Creek is running freely now," Wainwright said. "There is still some recovery work going on within the community of Lillooet Lake Estates as well. They're going to get some emergency funding from the province to clear some active roads. That work will be contracted out by the SLRD.
"Individual homeowners who were fairly hard hit are still working through the recovery process as well. There's a bunch of junk on lawns and driveways, so it's going to take some time and effort of the community to clean out."
Cataline Creek is no stranger to slides. In the past 20 years there have been four landslide events, with the latest the most significant.
Lillooet Lake Estates itself is actually built on a foundation of landslide debris and there remains a risk to the community because there's a mountain located behind it.
"We can't protect against future landslides," Wainwright said. "What we can do is manage the risk. As we get further along in the recovery process and people get back to their normal lives a little bit, the SLRD will be meeting with the community to talk about what measures can be taken, how they can be paid for, what sort of planning the community can do.
"There's residents who've been here long enough they know the sound of a landslide. It doesn't tend to rush down the hill at breakneck speed, there's usually some warning."
Robie Thorn, an accountant who works in Whistler and who's owned property at Lillooet Lake Estates for nine years, said the community is taking action to ensure that the water in Cataline Creek flows through its natural channel.
"What happens with this stuff, it comes down the mountain into the creekbed," he said.
"We're trying to create a flatter area to give it an opportunity to disperse some of its energy and lessen the effect of gravity, that sort of thing. So we're working on that, or helping to work on that very soon."
As for the creek itself, Thorn said an excavator was used to clear debris out of it that was later piled up on its banks to create a berm. That berm, he said, could keep material from escaping the creek.