Wells Gray Chronicles

Broken-treaty Governance: Democracy Alert

Catastrophic Floods:
1985 through 2014

Beginning in 1985, MoF D.M. Mel Monteith approved a succession of permit extensions to Clearwater Timber to undertake further work on the southwestern Trophy Mountain cutblocks. Initially these had been laid out as four long, rectangular blocks oriented northwest-southeast and separated narrow leave strips. By 1985, however, extensive blow down in the leave strips, combined with consequent spruce bark beetle outbreaks, prompted periodic further logging until, by 1987, the leave strips were gone. The result was Big Bertha: a single, amalgamated cutblock 3.75 km long by 2.25 km wide and covering about 550 ha. The creation of Big Bertha (a.k.a. Big Max) liquidated more than 90 per cent of all merchantable oldgrowth on the southwestern slopes the Trophy Mountains, thereby denuding the entire upper watersheds of First and Second Canyon Creeks, and hence leaving them prone to flooding; see 11 July 1997.

Between 1980 and 1987, further permits were approved to Clearwater Timber Products and later Slocan Forest Products to establish ten cutblocks on the northwestern slopes of the Trophy Mountains, resulting in the loss of about 80 per cent of the available oldgrowth, and denuding large portions of the upper watersheds of Fage Creek, Ordschig Creek, Duncan Creek and Shook Brook; see 26 May 1992. Note that the four uppermost clearcuts extended well above the recommended upper limits of sustainable forestry – set at about 1675 m by the B.C. Ministry of Environment in 1981 – virtually to timberline.

In the spring of 1981, flooding caused the water intake system of valley residents Les and Pat Hansen to wash out as a result of logging by Clearwater Timber Products on the slopes of the Trophy Mountains above their property. In response, Clearwater Timber Products provided the Hansens with a replacement system.

On 26 May 1992, Fage Creek flooded, partly taking out the Clearwater Valley Road and damaging the water intake system of valley residents George and Judy Briggs. Nearby Ordschig Creek also flooded during this same period. Both floods were later attributed to debris from mid-elevation clearcut logging by Slocan Forest Products.

On 11 July 1997, prolonged summer rain caused First Canyon Creek to wash out Clearwater Valley Road, creating a cleft 40 m deep and 20 m across, and stranding valley residents and park visitors for several days. The same rain event blocked the culvert at Second Canyon Creek and caused the road to shift downhill.

First Canyon after 1997 flood.
Photo by Rod Salem.

On 8 July 1999, a prolonged summer rain event caused Spahats Creek to tear out its culvert and the Clearwater Valley Road. Upstream logging is implicated in this event.

Spahats Creek flooding in July 1999.
Photo by Don Hallliday.

On 17 July 2001, prolonged summer rain caused Grouse Creek to wash out the bridge crossing on the Wells Gray Park Road – the fourth such event at least partly traceable to clearcut logging on the Trophy Mountains. Conclusion: Land management decisions taken by MoF D.M. Mel Monteith between 1978 and 1987 contributed substantially to the destruction of road and bridges, thereby ultimately cost B.C. taxpayers $6 million – $7 million in repairs. As far as is known, none of this cost was borne by industry.

On 29 May 2014, Second Canyon Creek blocks the culvert at the park road, backing up and nearly washing out the Clearwater Valley Road.