Mary Sword stands as close as she dares to the edge of Bastin Road, which is eroding away due to groundwater and run-off.                                 Melanie Law photos

Mary Sword stands as close as she dares to the edge of Bastin Road, which is eroding away due to groundwater and run-off. Melanie Law photos

Bastin Road slide a big concern for local residents

A road south of Quesnel is eroding, with run-off landing up in the Swords’ hay field

This year’s run-off is affecting one local resident in a bigger way than some.

Mary Sword lives at a home on Bastin Road, along the Quesnel River to the south of Quesnel. The gravel road is about 22 km from Frank’s Supermarket and juts off of Quesnel Hydraulic Road, and then weaves up around Mary and her parents’ property, going up a steep grade above their field.

From Mary’s home, she can see Bastin Road crumbling away with the run-off from the field above. She’s lived at the property since 1996, and says the slide gets worse every year.

“What happens when it gets warm and it rains, and it [slides away] at night? What if the road is gone and someone comes flying around that corner?” she wonders.

“In the afternoons when it’s warm, I can hear Niagra Falls, and stuff just starts going.”

She’s been documenting the slide for the last few years, and has photos and video showing the damage.

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) pylons mark the edge of the crumbling road, and local MOTI contractor Emcon Services says its a known slide area.

“It’s been an ongoing issue for 14 years,” says Emcon division manager John Andrushko.

“There have been many improvements made, but the high run-off does cause concern from the cross culverts that are eroding the downward slope.”

Mary says the erosion wasn’t a problem until the Ministry put in the culverts under the road, at least seven years ago.

“The water used to run in ditches down the side of the road. They re-routed it underneath and now it’s eroding the whole hillside,” she explains.

Seven ago, one of the culverts caused a significant slide after dark.

“I heard it go. It was just this loud, whooshing roar. I couldn’t see till morning how much of the road was gone,” says Mary.

That slide area continues to shift, but of more concern for the family is a culvert that is bringing water down the hill and into their field.

The field now has a river running through it from the run-off, and silt, rock and water have likely ruined this year’s hay crop.

”Everything we put on there now is under sand and silt. You have all this water sitting there. It’s going to be pretty sparse. We can’t afford to keep planting and fertilizing. I’m not even sure we’ll be able to use it as a hay field now,” says Mary.

On top of that, the Ministry has been forced to buy some of the Swords’ property above the road to carve the road farther into the hillside, for the safety of drivers.

”They’ve purchased some land from us so they could work on it, but we don’t really want to sell any more of our property,” says Mary’s mother Melissa.

Bastin Road drops off sharply on the right as you travel up the hill, and it’s not hard to imagine a vehicle tumbling over the edge if the road continues to narrow. Mary says the road used to be flat, but now its easy to see it is slanted towards the hillside, as the earth underneath continues to slip.

Bastin road is used by a few residents who live farther along than the Swords. These residents have ranches, so it’s not uncommon to see loaded hay trucks travelling on the hill. It is also used by workers travelling to and from a mine located past the Swords’ property.

“It’s down to single lane and if you don’t stay close to the high side… it’s undermined, so it’s hard to tell. If you drive close to the edge, we worry vehicles will go over,” says Melissa.

The Swords say they have spoken to Ministry representatives many times, with what they consider little result.

“They have bandaid solutions. They put some pylons up this year. They just move them every time more road washes away. They come look at it and don’t do anything,” says Mary.

When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for MOTI sent staff and geotechnical engineers to the site to assess the conditions.

Two days later, they released a statement.

“In previous years, the Ministry has carried out work at this site including the installation of culverts. This week, the Ministry did a geotechnical assessment of the site, which has been affected by high ground water through the thawing of snow. Based on this assessment, we have asked our maintenance contractor to take immediate measures to control the flow of surface water by re-directing it to a culvert that is down grade from this location.

“Work will include building ditches to improve drainage and other actions to ensure the culverts are free flowing. Our maintenance contractor will increase monitoring to twice daily, and the Ministry will also be reviewing the results of the geotechnical assessment to determine potential future actions.”

It’s a result from the ministry.

But Mary worries this is just another bandaid and that moving the culverts will still bring the water into their fields.

“It seems like it’s just, ‘wait until it’s a big disaster and then get the government to pay for it,’” says Mary.

“It could be a pretty big catastrophe. How far is it going to go? Is it all going to crash through my house?”

Video courtesy of Mary Sword

 

Mary Sword says this culvert was barely visible early in the year, and the chunk of land behind it has all shifted down the hill this year.

Mary Sword says this culvert was barely visible early in the year, and the chunk of land behind it has all shifted down the hill this year.

Water flooded the Swords’ field near Mary’s home mid-March this year. Mary Sword photo

Water flooded the Swords’ field near Mary’s home mid-March this year. Mary Sword photo