A contractor will be working to repair rip rap barriers along Highway 16 within the next couple of weeks, says Ministry of Transportation and Highways district manager Don Ramsay.
“We’re already underway. We’re in the process of getting the proper papers, road permits,” Mr. Ramsay told 50 or so islanders at a meeting Tuesday (Nov. 9) in Tlell. “We will have a full-time contractor in place by early December.”
That will be almost a year since the devastating Christmas Eve storm that destroyed rip rap barriers and eroded the shore to within metres of the highway in several spots between Skidegate and Tlell.
The ministry delayed repairs earlier this year after tests showed the rock being used could generate acid.
Mr. Ramsay said the contractor will use rock from a new source: the Ministry of Forests’ Honna gravel pit, which has the “best and cleanest rock available” on the islands.
“We are taking this whole situation on the Charlottes extremely seriously,” he said, adding the ministry will spend about $1.5-million on these repairs. “We’re well aware of all the social and economic implications of this link.”
Geoff Buck of Thurber Engineering, the firm hired to design the protective rip rap sections, also spoke at the meeting.
Dr. Buck drew a picture of the new rip rap, which will be placed in several vulnerable areas, including Halibut Bight and Dress for Les. The design calls for a double layer of large armour rock covering a layer of angular shot rock, and in some cases, a filter cloth. The new rip rap will be built in a three to one slope, which means it will extend out three metres for every metre in height. In some cases, this will result in the barrier extending out as far as 21 metres onto the beach, he said. The large rocks will be placed by a hoe, which will have to go out onto the shore to do this work.
Dr. Buck said not enough research has been done for anyone to say how frequently an event like the Dec. 24 storm will occur. But he said it was “rare” and “certainly a major infrequent storm”. The event was unusual not for the speed of the wind (which was surpassed, for example, by last weekend’s storm), but for its 12-hour duration, accompanied by low atmospheric pressure and a high tide.
In response to questions from residents, Mr. Ramsay said the Ministry of Highways has absolutely no intention of moving Highway 16, even though the shoreline erodes by about a foot year and is now right up against the highway in several spots.
“We’ve given about two seconds worth of thought to that,” he said. “It won’t be relocatedÂ… We’re here, we’re investing $1.5-million in protecting this road.”
However, he did say that some small sections of the road may have to be moved.
“There may be areas where the road is going to disappear over time and we’ll have to move it,” he said. “We have to deal with those as one-offs.”
Several residents had questions about the Ministry’s plans for the area around Wiggins Road in Tlell, where repairs were done last winter. These repairs were not done to the standard now recommended by Dr. Buck, Mr. Ramsay admitted, but the Ministry does not plan to redo them.
“The reason we’re not going to go back there right now is we don’t feel it’s an emergency situation,” he said. “The protection there is adequateÂ… We think there are more critical sites.”
The ministry will continue to make any needed repairs if something happens, he said.
The meeting was organized by the Tlell Community Association, and association member Doug Leach thanked ministry staff for coming to Tlell and speaking to the public.
“You’ve started a tradition of consulting with the community,” Mr. Leach said, “and it’s very much appreciated.”
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