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
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.”
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.”
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.”
Peter Fenwick is chair of the Southwest Coast Joint Council.
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.
A view of Otter Bridge Falls along the Mid Island Route.