West Coast Road could open up opportunities

Lake Cowichan – Re: Cowichan Valley Citizen, Wednesday, May 20 “Opening the west: road push on” It should be noted that for a number of years a coalition of concerned Bamfield residents, representatives of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, industrial lease holders (IT and WFP), along with Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, all working together with the Bamfield Road Safety Association (BRSA.ca), have been addressing these very concerns.

After a number of fatalities and close calls on this industrial road, mostly due to road conditions, driver error, and inexperience, this coalition worked to get over $1 million spent on extra projects to improve safety on the road.

This brought the road from one of B.C.’s most dangerous roads, to one that is now safer and more accommodating to the experienced driver going to the West Coast and Bamfield. That said, many further improvements are necessary to get this road to a point where safety for all levels of drivers is assured.

There are many factors to address in order for improvements to be made, as the Huu-ayaht and Bamfield residents and other users would like to see. The road has a number of shareholders involved. The Huu-ay-aht, at least two forestry companies hold industrial permits, Ministry of Transportation, and private interests all own or lease the roadway known as the Bamfield Road or the West Coast Vancouver Island Road. Implementing a regime of improvements on this road involves a number of hurdles. None that haven’t been crossed

before. Collectively, with the assistance of both the provincial and federal governments, First Nations, and industrial lease holders, an opportunity to open this area for the betterment of all Island residents and users exists. An example is that here lies the only way of getting from North Island to South Island in the event of a natural disaster and a potential blocking of Highway 4. That would be via Nitinat and Lake Cowichan. Road improvements would open many new potential financial opportunities for the Nitinat area and Bamfield.

Recreational and new industrial users could help pay the costs of the improvements and upgrades. There is talk of a potential LNG plant that could be developed in the Sarita Bay area, close to Bamfield. This billion dollar industry and investment hinges on the ability to get there both safely and efficiently, and would offer many years of employment, and opportunities to the area residents, along with long overdue improvements to infrastructure like sewage disposal and water quality improvements.

It’s good to see that forward looking council member Tim McGonigle from Lake Cowichan recognizes the benefits associated to these potential road improvements, and the opportunities that exist for our town of Lake Cowichan when the road gets an upgrade as a connecter to the Bamfield Road (West Coast Vancouver Island Road), along with the safety, and recreational user aspect of having the a west coast loop road built for year-round access to Sarita, Bamfield, and connecting to Port Alberni.

Joseph Pearson

Lake Cowichan