Construction for a much-needed new bypass road will begin this summer for the Ditidaht First Nation to allow community members in and out of the village during bad floods.
For decades, the Ditidaht First Nation have endured chronic flooding of a portion of the Carmanah Mainline that runs parallel to the Nitnat River. This is the main access into and out of the Ditidaht Village of Malachan at Nitinaht Lake.
The San Group is donating funds and services to the nation to help construct the new road from the Malachan Village to the Lake Cowichan junction that bypasses the flood prone area along the Nitnat River.
Past flooding caused by heavy rain and snowfall has resulted in waters reaching around five feet in some areas of the road. There is a back access road to the village, but locals say it is not always open. Sometimes a forestry company locks the gates or downed trees block the road.
“Imagine not being able to have access to your home or having emergency services restricted,” said Kamal Sanghera, co-owner of San Group, in a release. “Safe, reliable access to all our communities is something we all deserve. It should not be considered a luxury.”
Kevin Somerville, vice president of operations at San Group, said the forestry company donated an undisclosed amount to the Carmanah Main Bypass Road project, coving a “significant” portion of the construction cost. They also donated in-kind services and professional advice.
The Ditidaht Economic Development Corporation (DEDC) will apply revenues generated from its forestry and tourism operation to help cover costs of the project.
“The Ditidaht Economic Development Corporation decided to embark on generating its own funds to create an emergency bypass so that our people, in an emergency situation, have access to either go out to Duncan or Port Alberni during the flood seasons,” said Ditidaht First Nation Chief Councillor Brian Tate.
Tate said last year’s winter storms were so bad they caused the road to close several times, resulting in community members being trapped in, our out, of the village.
“We get heavy snows back there in the mountains where the other bypass was and there’s also other flooding zones out there now where there wasn’t before,” Tate said. “In November when the chum are running and the rains are hard enough that it floods the road, salmon will go across the road.”
Tate added that last year a boat had to be sent to rescue a few of the community’s elders who were trapped in their homes by the floods.
“I’m excited to have this road access out during the winter months when the roads are flooding so it’ll be less worry on our people and better safety for our people,” Tate said.