Most in attendance at a town hall meeting in Youbou on Aug. 28 were not in favour of the construction of a new bypass route around Youbou Road for logging trucks.
In a letter to the TimberWest forest company which is proposing the bypass road, Youbou’s Alison Coley-Donohue said the majority of the more than 100 people who attended the meeting, and the community itself, want another option to be explored.
TimberWest and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure called the meeting to consider options to deal with ongoing dust and mud problems on Youbou Road that are related to logging trucks.
TimberWest proposed a bypass road to keep the logging trucks off of Youbou Road at the meeting, but Coley-Donohue said the community’s preferred solution, which would also be much cheaper, is to pave the gravel portion of the road which should deal with many of the issues.
She said the proposed route for the bypass road is in the forested hills directly above the community, and residents are raising concerns around landslides, erosion and severe water run-off into Youbou from the route if it goes ahead.
Coley-Donohue said the obvious intent of TimberWest is to build the bypass road mainly so the company can log the hill above Youbou.
“It’s not easy to make everyone in a community happy, but it seems the majority consensus agrees that you should pave [Youbou Road] to the end of the lake and forget about logging directly above the town of Youbou,” she said in the letter.
“I hope you are earnest in your desire to placate concerns, because I don’t see any other path than that.”
The dust problem from logging trucks along Youbou Road has been an issue since the community’s sawmill closed in 2001.
Before the closure of the mill, most of the wood logged in the area would be processed there, but now the raw logs have to go on increasingly busy public roads on trucks right from the logging sites on the way to be processed, and the trucks bring lots of dust and mud from the sites with them.
Klaus Kuhn, the director for Youbou with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, agreed that the favourite option of the crowd at the meeting was to pave the stretch of roadway all the way back to Pine Point.
“That option would see logging trucks lose much of the mud and dust before they get to the main section of Youbou Road, and then there could be a truck wash as well to wash the rest of the dirt away,” Kuhn said.
“The bypass road was just one option that was discussed previously, but TimberWest seemed to be focused on that one option during the town hall meeting.”
Kuhn said he believes TimberWest will have to regroup after the town hall meeting and explore options other than the bypass route.
“I think the [Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] should become more involved because it’s in their best interests,” he said.
“The ministry is currently carrying the costs of cleaning the dust and mud off the road and it would be a lot cheaper to pave it back to Pine Point.”
Domenico Iannidianardo, TimberWest’s vice-president of sustainability and chief forester, attended the town hall meeting.
He said in a statement that TimberWest heard the community’s concerns and appreciated the feedback that was received.
“We continue to actively work with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the CVRD on next steps, and as always we will keep the community informed,” he said.
A statement from the ministry clarified who is responsible for various sections of the road.
It said the paved portion of Youbou Road that runs through the community is owned and maintained by the ministry, while the gravel portion of the road that leads out of town is private and maintained by TimberWest to support the company’s logging activities.
The ministry said it is also committed to working closely with TimberWest, the Youbou community and the CVRD to find long-term solutions to resolve the ongoing issue.
“In the meantime, to address traffic and speed-related concerns, the ministry is planning to install speed reader boards by next spring,” the statement said.
“Staff are also assessing the sweeping program to refine the maintenance approach specific to the needs of Youbou. The ministry continues to monitor the provincial portion of the road to ensure it remains clean and safe.”