The Ministry of Transportation and Highways is working to avoid a catastrophe at 10 Mile Slide near Lillooet, but its concerns don't quite line up with those of a nearby First Nation.
In a letter to the ministry dated May 27, Xaxli'p First Nation Chief Darrell Bob urges quick action to fix the slide, a flimsy rock formation that's crossed by both Highway 99 and a CN Rail line and that lies close to the First Nation's reserve north of Lillooet.
In the letter Bob writes that the slide is up to two kilometres long and 400 metres wide, according to ministry technicians, and that it's slowly slipping into the Fraser River below.
"When it releases, it could have a catastrophic effect on the Fraser River and our fishery, much like the slide at Hell's Gate in 1913," he said. "The 10 Mile Slide will no doubt block the river - causing significant damage - and when that blockage releases, further damage from flooding and erosion will result."
The ministry responded to Pique 's query on Monday and said it has been "actively carrying out investigations, evaluating options and monitoring" towards a solution.
"The slide consists of a large volume of material which moves slowly," Ministry spokesman Dave Crebo said in an e-mailed response. "Slow enough to allow us to take the necessary measures to monitor and maintain the serviceability of the road."
Crebo went on to say the likelihood of a "catatstrophic failure" is "very low" - contrasting heavily with the Xaxli'p's warnings, which have stated a slide could close the highway for weeks. A solution, he said, could cost "tens of millions" of dollars.
Lillooet Mayor Dennis Bontron said in an interview that the slide is a rock formation that's "not necessarily the most stable in the world" and the whole thing, above and below the highway, is reported to be slipping towards the river. The highway itself is on such an unstable foundation that it isn't even paved.
"When you drive a truck or a car on a gravel road at high speeds you kick up rocks," he said. "On the 10 Mile Slide it's not paved because you can't pave it. It keeps sinking so you have to use gravel there."
When it comes to fixing up the slide, Bontron said he doesn't have the first clue what to do there.
"My practical analysis is, what do you do when a whole part of the earth is slipping?" he asked. "What do you do about it? You can't prop it up from below."