The road to Telegraph Creek is now open following extensive work to clear up up a rockslide that shut off access into the northern B.C. community almost a month ago.
A majority of the slide debris has now been removed with equipment, and loose rocks were removed by a rock scaling crew.
The slide blocked Highway 51 20 kilometres east of Telegraph Creek on Nov. 5.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says approximately $300,000 has been spent on the work to date. Geotechnical crews coordinated assessments of the area and removed debris from the slide. A concrete lock-block wall was also installed to support the slide area, and a second wall was constructed to catch any loose material.
The slide was located on a steep, narrow section of Hwy 51, which made it challenging for crews to safely operate heavy equipment, according to the ministry.
Over the last week, there has been minimal slope movement of the area. With the concrete lock-block walls in place, slope movement has decreased significantly now that equipment has cleaned the site and rock scalers have removed some of the material higher up on the slope.
“The ministry will continue monitoring the site over the winter, and will conduct a geotechnical assessment in the spring to see how the concrete lock-block wall is performing,” a ministry spokesperson wrote in an email to the Terrace Standard.
During the closure, a helicopter was used twice to deliver groceries and supplies to residents of Telegraph Creek. The road was also opened for limited periods, allowing all-wheel drive vehicles to bring in more items like medicine and prescriptions.
Tahltan Band Chief Rick Mclean says large rocks and debris falling from the slope onto the road has been an issue for years.
“We’ve been advocating for that whole hillside to be screened in for the last 10 years,” he says. “It is a very dangerous section of road.”
Every spring, or when there’s a lot of rain, rocks usually fall from the slope onto the road. Mclean says he has heard of people’s car windows getting smashed, or rocks coming down on the hoods of vehicles. Road maintenance crews usually have a grader or a truck posted by the slope each spring, ready to clear the way, he says.
“Screening the hillside in could be a forseeable long-term solution. It’s not going to stop everything, you never know when the whole slope is going to give way, but that is a way to keep rocks from rolling out on the road.”
Even though access to Telegraph Creek on Hwy 51 was cut off, some Tahltan members used old traditional footpaths to get up and around the rockslide, Mclean says.
“We’re a resilent people, and if there’s a way around it, they’ll find it.”