FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Peace River Regional District says it is waiting to receive a geotechnical report from its contractor, Westrek Geotechnical Services, to determine the long-term plan for the Old Fort subdivision – a report that is due to be released in just under a week’s time.
PRRD Chair Brad Sperling and Peace River North MLA Dan Davies held a press conference today to give an update on the situation in Old Fort, which had its only road access cut off nearly three weeks ago when 8 million cubic metres of rock slide down the hill above the community.
Sperling explained that Westrek’s report, which is expected late next week, will allow the PRRD to host another public meeting with residents to let them and other agencies know what the long-term plan will be for the community.
He said that at this point, the PRRD is looking at two main scenarios with some variations: that it is safe enough for some or all Old Fort residents to be allowed to return to their homes for the winter; or that residents will need to spend an extended period of time away from their homes.
If the area is deemed safe by geotechnical engineers, the PRRD has prioritized restoring road access and utilities to the community.
The Ministry of Transportation said Friday that a temporary road over the slide is being built and could be complete in three weeks’ time, while BC Hydro crews are currently working to build two power lines to restore power to homes at both ends of the subdivision.
Sperling said that the PRRD will be working to help residents remove any appliances such as fridges that have been spoiled by the 3-week power outage, and to get RV’s, boats, and other such items winterized.
He said that if engineers are not able to determine the safety of residents, that the PRRD will be ensuring that all homes are winterized and that steps are taken to ensure the security of residents’ homes until they are allowed to return.
Sperling added that he will be recommending that the Regional Board examine the PRRD’s response in order to learn how it could improve its disaster response and planning to deal with future emergencies.
From a provincial standpoint, MLA Davies explained that though the provincial government has made Disaster Financial Assistance available for Old Fort residents, that assistance is only applicable to physical damages that are sustained by properties.
He said that he will be meeting with B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth this coming week and pushing for the Province look at whether residents could be eligible to receive financial compensation for value losses to residents’ properties.
Davies also said that he’s spoken with Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer, who said that he’s also been looking at ways of getting help to Old Fort residents at the federal level.