Washouts on Mid Is­land Route an on­go­ing con­cern

South West Coast Joint Coun­cil wants to see two washouts re­paired ASAP; ten­ders to be is­sued this sum­mer

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front page - BY MAR­TINE BLUE

Peter Fen­wick, chair of the South West Coast Joint Coun­cil, first heard about washouts on the road coun­cil calls the Mid Is­land Route at a June 2 meet­ing.

“It must have been a re­ally heavy rain fall with prob­a­bly frozen ground,” Fen­wick said. “It’s caused some erosion and I be­lieve there were a cou­ple of spots that were eaten away.

“My un­der­stand­ing is that the (provin­cial) govern­ment has com­mit­ted to fix­ing it, but I was hop­ing it would be done by now and peo­ple would be us­ing the road. The govern­ment is not giv­ing it the pri­or­ity we would like to see them give it.”

For the past five years the South West Coast Joint Coun­cil have been lob­by­ing govern­ment to main­tain the road. Fen­wick says there has been con­sid­er­able im­prove­ment.

“They’ve done a phe­nom­e­nal amount of work on it in terms of ditch­ing, fix­ing up the sec­tions that were rough, cut­ting back the brush and so on,” Fen­wick said. “We were very pleased with the progress we made on it in the last cou­ple of years.”

Fen­wick says with a num­ber of cab­ins along that road, with own­ers anx­ious to see it fixed and will­ing to do it them­selves, he thought it would have been done by now.

“That’s not a big job for them ( the govern­ment),” he said. “They just have to send a truck in with a load of stuff and maybe a cul­vert and they should have that fixed very quickly.

“The tourism in­dus­try would like it to be de­vel­oped as well. There’s a lot of in­ter­est in that road and it would be a shame if they let it lapse again.”

Who is re­spon­si­ble?

The road has also been used fre­quently by in­dus­try and re­source com­pa­nies, which have taken on the main­te­nance of the road over the years.

So the ques­tion of who is re­spon­si­ble for the road now con­fuses those who want to see it kept in good con­di­tion.

“The re­spon­si­bil­ity for that road shifted from time to time,” Fen­wick said. “Abitibi main­tained it and kept it in great shape up un­til the time that they closed their mills.

“Half of it is main­tained by NL Hy­dro (from Star Lake to Buchans) be­cause they have the power plant at Star Lake, and that’s the way they ac­cess it.”

He con­tin­ued, “It’s the part from Star Lake south to the right an­gle turn that has been of con­cern be­cause it’s the part that the prov­ince didn’t do any­thing with for a num­ber of years. Last we heard it was now part of the re­spon­si­bil­ity of (the De­part­ment of) Trans­porta­tion and Works, that they were re­spon­si­ble for the road it­self.”

Po­ten­tial

Fen­wick and his group be­lieve the road has great po­ten­tial. He would like to see it of­fi­cially named and ser­viced year-round.

“That was one of our de­bates, if we get it up and run­ning on a con­sis­tent ba­sis, will we have a name for it?” Fen­wick won­dered. “Peo­ple call it the Bur­geo-Buchans road, but we’ve called it at times the Mid Is­land Route be­cause we’d like to see in the long run it ac­tu­ally main­tained as part of the high­way sys­tem.

“We be­lieve this idea of not be­ing able to go through the cen­ter part of the prov­ince is just fool­ish.” Peter Fen­wick

“We be­lieve this idea of not be­ing able to go through the cen­ter part of the prov­ince is just fool­ish. This is some of the most spec­tac­u­lar scenery we have, there are enor­mous re­sources there.”

Com­mit­ments

Fen­wick noted that the coun­cil had com­mit­ments from the provin­cial govern­ment that they would main­tain the road.

“So we’re in a much bet­ter place than we were five years ago when we started the whole thing,” he said.

Rod­ney Drover, me­dia re­la­tions man­ager for the De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works con­firmed there are two washouts along the forestry re­source road from Bur­geo to Buchans and that ten­ders to com­plete the work to re­pairs these ar­eas will be is­sued some­time this sum­mer. He ex­pects the work will take up to a week to com­plete.

Drover also is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment by e-mail, “Our num­ber one pri­or­ity is safety. The road passes a sig­nif­i­cant dis­tance through a re­mote wilder­ness area. It is an un­main­tained road that is not de­signed or built to a provin­cial high­way stan­dard.

“We want to be clear to mo­torists that there are in­her­ent risks with opt­ing to use this route as an al­ter­na­tive to the high­way when mak­ing a trip to the eastern re­gion.

“While ten­ders are be­ing called to re­pair washouts lo­cated along the road be­tween Star Lake and the Bur­geo High­way, it is a forestry re­source road and is sim­ply not the safer op­tion for com­mut­ing. NL Hy­dro main­tains the road from Star Lake to Buchans.

“The prov­ince per­forms limited main­te­nance work along the road be­tween the Bur­geo High­way and Star Lake to sup­port provin­cial forestry op­er­a­tions along that length of the road.

“Any­one wish­ing to re­port an is­sue along the road may con­tact the ap­pro­pri­ate district forestry man­age­ment of­fice.”

N.L. Hy­dro re­sponse

A spokesper­son for N. L. Hy­dro sup­plied this e-mailed state­ment: “Hy­dro does not own this road nor does it have re­spon­si­bil­ity for main­tain­ing the road for pub­lic use. Hy­dro uses the road from Buchans to Star Lake to ac­cess and op­er­ate hy­dro­elec­tric fa­cil­i­ties. Any main­te­nance that we do on the road is min­i­mal and for that pur­pose solely. We are aware that there are washouts and dam­age in places caused by pre­cip­i­ta­tion and runoff this spring. We are not able to give an in­di­ca­tion at this time if and when we will be in a po­si­tion to make any re­pairs.”

THE WESTERN STAR FILE PHOTO

Peter Fen­wick is chair of the South­west Coast Joint Coun­cil.

THE AD­VER­TISER FILE PHOTO

The road con­nect­ing Buchans and Bur­geo has suf­fered sev­eral washouts over the past month, and prop­erty own­ers have taken to fix­ing up the road them­selves.

SUB­MIT­TED

A view of Ot­ter Bridge Falls along the Mid Is­land Route.

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