UPDATE: The Regional District has released the following map showing which community members will get temporary access permits on Monday. Click here for all the details about the temporary access permits.
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Geologists that have been contracted by the Peace River Regional District say that the landslide that occurred above Old Fort two weeks ago has slowed enough in recent days that residents of the community will be allowed temporary access to their homes starting Monday.
Engineering Geologist Rhonda Mellafont with Westrek Geotechnical Servies said that in tracking the movement of the main slide and the other adjacent older slides that reactivated, officials have learned that the slides’ movements appear to have started to slow down in recent days.
Mellafont said that though the slides have slowed down, that does not preclude the possibility of the landslides speeding back up again, but that it is good news and has increased the safety of some of the areas under an evacuation order.
She explained that the main landslide was a deep-seated landslide with an initial point of failure adjacent to and southwest of the gravel pit at the top of the hillside above Old Fort.
That initial slide has caused an estimated 7 million cubic metres of material to slide over the Old Fort road all the way to the banks of the Peace River.
An additional 1 million cubic metres of material has moved in the area to the west of the main slide, while stress cracking has been observed in the hillside to the east of the slide.
Mellafont said that geotechnical surveys of those hillside stress cracks will be conducted on the ground starting Monday, while Old Fort residents will be given temporary access to their homes to winterize properties and retrieve personal belongings.
Roughly 40 of the 52 properties in Old Fort will be allowed temporary access, while the other 12 are said to be too close to the slide to allow re-entry at this time.
Aaron Pritchard with R&R Rentals, who is managing the temporary entry for residents, said that up to 30 residents at a time will be brought by boat into Old Fort for a period of several hours to retrieve their belongings and tend to their properties.
He added that his company is also communicating with a group of volunteers, some of whom breached the evacuation order with residents last Wednesday.
When it comes to re-establishing road access to the community, officials with YRB North Peace and the Ministry of Transportation said that two options are currently being considered: building a temporary road over the main landslide, or building a series of culverts and bridges over the islands south of Old Fort.
YRB North Peace Operations Manager Rodney Hafner said that a road over the main slide could be established in as little as 3-5 days, while a road over the islands would take about twice as long, though the benefit of the longer route is that the ground is more stable.
More information about the movement of the slide, as well as the status of the temporary road, is expected in the coming days.
Evacuation orders and evacuation alerts remain in place for the area around Old Fort at this time.