Some residents in Youbou are cautiously optimistic about the dust and mud situation in their community following a meeting on Thursday between the issue’s primary stakeholders.
On April 7, representatives from the Youbou Community Association, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the CVRD and TimberWest met to discuss the problem of dirt tracked through the community from the industrial road at the west end of Youbou.
“We’ll wait and see,” said YCA president Chris Leischner. “There have been many promises in the past and some of them have proved ineffective when they have been carried through with, and some of them have not been carried through with.”
The ministry has hired a contractor that is in the process of removing mud and sediment from a 1.3-kilometre section of Youbou Road along the eastbound lane of traffic from where the pavement begins to Coon Creek Road. This initial cleaning is scheduled to be completed by the end of this week, at which time MOTI staff will meet with community representatives to assess the effectiveness of this removal process. If deemed effective, the ministry will continue the debris-removal for the remaining populated portion of Youbou Road impacted by the dirt and dust.
In a letter to Area I director Klaus Kuhn, Janelle Erwin, MOTI district manager of transportation for Vancouver Island, stated: “Once the road is fully cleared of accumulated debris, MOTI is committed, in partnership with TimberWest, to ongoing monitoring of debris on the roadway. This monitoring will help us to develop a framework for an ongoing debris removal strategy to avoid any future adverse accumulations on the roadway.”
The letter also outlines a number of commitments from TimberWest including ongoing efforts to improve the effectiveness of the truck washing station and exploring the possibility of bringing in fresh water to the machine’s existing closed-loop system. (The closed-loop system was implemented because of environmental concerns.)
TimberWest will soon be applying a “dust palliative product” — a kind of leveller to reduce airborne dust — which it has been used for approximately the last three years.
Speaking with the Gazette both before and after Thursday’s meeting, Monica Bailey, director of communications and engagement at TimberWest, emphasized that her company is doing everything it can to mitigate any mud and dust on the road. She pointed to the truck wash station as an example of an a step taken “with the express wishes of the community.”
“It does mean working with Ministry of Transportation because the majority of that road is public access road. And then working with the community to better collectively work together to find whatever solutions can be put in place,” she said.
Bailey noted that TimberWest has not received complaints from truck drivers about the truck wash station clogging, but “we’re definitely going to investigate everything and take a look at what’s going on.”
She described the meeting as a “positive step” and said it was nice for all parties involved to have a space to air collective concerns.
Another outcome from the meeting is an agreement by TimberWest to voluntarily implement a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of adding fenders to the logging trucks to see whether this step reduces the amount of debris tracked onto the public roadway.
This fender initiative was championed by Kuhn, who echoed the YCA sentiment about cautious optimism following the meeting.
“Really the log trucks should have fenders,” he said. “It seems to me absolutely incredible that… the trucks that are the dirtiest, that come right out of the bush that have mud in their wheels, they don’t need to have fenders.”
Kuhn said he was happy TimberWest was present for the meeting.
YCA president, Leischner, said, “Good that we’re moving forward. We’ll wait and see what that looks like.”
However, she did express disappointment that the current road cleaning is being done by MOTI.
“I guess one of my concerns is TimberWest is not responsible for doing that. It is the Ministry of Transportation,” she said, adding she doesn’t think taxpayers should have to foot the bill for cleaning up the roadway there.
Speaking for TimberWest, Bailey pointed out that Youbou Road is a public road.
“TimberWest is a taxpayer as much as the residents are as well, “ she said. “The Ministry of Transportation does have a responsibility to all of its taxpayers to keep the roads clean and clear.”
Bailey also suggested an undue amount of blame is being levelled against logging trucks.
“We have to remember this road yes, it’s being accessed by logging trucks absolutely. But beyond that it’s also being accessed by area residents continually,” she said. “There are a lot of people using that road and using our logging roads to access some of our grounds for camping and other recreational activities.
“Overall it sounds like a problem of just road use, not simply just that logging trucks are accessing the road.”