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Bulkley forestry audit finds safety issues

Six bridges with structural safety issues were found after audit of the Bulkley Timber Supply Area.
Bridge issues on six forest service roads west and north of Smithers were discovered by the Forest Practices Board audit. Map provided by Forest Services board

Six bridges with structural safety issues were found after an audit of the Bulkley Timber Supply Area (TSA).

Four bridges west of Smithers and two in the north section of the TSA have serious issues. These are on forest service roads (FSR) in the wilderness not recommended for travel to the general public, but are used especially in the summer by wilderness seekers.

Bridge problems included rotten, broken or missing components, or abutment erosion. A total of 26 bridges were examined.

“The number of issues with roads and bridges identified in this audit is concerning,” said Chris Mosher, director of audits for the Forest Practices Board (FPB), in a media release.

”We are also concerned that we continue to see issues with fire hazard assessments, as we have warned licensees that this is a legal requirement that we check in our audits.”

There were also problems with culvert installation and maintenance, and road maintenance issues that led to a small landslide on McDonnell FSR.

“Basically the debris ran into the forest and stopped before it reached a fish stream, so there was no impact to the forest resource in that case,” said FPB spokesperson Darlene Oman.

Several of the problems had been previously identified by government, but were not corrected, according to the report.

Oman said the previous problem identification in areas licensees were not likely active at the time was by a regional engineer.

“Overall these roads are not easily accessible. They’re (licensees or permit holders) are only required to maintain them for industrial use, but still … we found that there were some issues on these bridges and that they weren’t corrected or the bridges weren’t closed to prevent anyone from accessing them,” explained Oman.

She said when roads and bridges are closed, often cross stitches or physical barriers like piles of rock are put in the way of any motorists trying to drive down.

The latest audit findings are being responded to, according to Oman.

“BCTS (BC Timber Sales Program) has responded to those findings. They are dealing with or have already addressed those issues with those roads. That’s one of the positive outcomes of the work that we do, is you see people are very responsive and they go out and they fix the issue before the report even hits the street, often,” she said.