A section of burned forest in the midst of the Two Mile Road wildfire on July 21, 2021. (Zachary Roman/Eagle Valley News)

A section of burned forest in the midst of the Two Mile Road wildfire on July 21, 2021. (Zachary Roman/Eagle Valley News)

Regional district against Sicamous salvage logging that would up debris flow risk

Engineering firm finds leaving burnt trees in place has considerable ecological value

Regional government is against salvage logging in areas impacted by last summer’s Two Mile Road wildfire near Sicamous.

This comes after an engineering firm hired by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) determined proposed salvage logging at the site of the wildfire would increase the chance of a debris flow occurring. The firm conducted a study of scientific literature relating to whether the risk of debris flows is increased by salvage logging and found it did.

The Two Mile Road wildfire burned intensely above the Sicamous Creek mobile home park and as a result, there’s already a high risk of a small debris flow occurring there. Salvage logging would compound that risk.

Without salvage logging taking place, there’s a 75 per cent chance a small debris flow will occur near the mobile park in the next two years. If one does, there’s a 68 per cent chance it will impact homes.

That data comes from BGC Engineering, the firm the CSRD hired. Its staff have years of experience working in the Wiseman Creek watershed, which was hit hard by the wildfire. According to a Jan. 26 BGC debris flow mitigation options analysis report, debris flows are particularly threatening to life and properties due to their high sediment concentrations, fast speeds and high impact forces.

As a result of BGC’s findings in its study and options analysis, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) has submitted a referral response to BC Timber Sales (BCTS), asking that no salvage logging take place in areas impacted by the wildfire.

At the CSRD’s Feb. 17 meeting, board members reviewed a recommendation that asked “a moratorium be placed on logging activity in the Sicamous and Wiseman Creek community watershed areas due to the high geohazard risk created by the 2021 Two Mile Creek Fire.”

The recommendation was passed unanimously.

Read more: Support denied for debris flow mitigation options proposed for Sicamous mobile park

BGC recommended no salvage logging take place in areas affected by the Two Mile Road wildfire until 2024, when the situation can be reassessed.

“Even thereafter, operations require careful execution and monitoring,” reads a BGC report.

It indicated leaving burnt trees in place has considerable ecological value.

“In BGC’s opinion, salvage logging in the burnt areas of Wiseman Creek bears a substantial risk. This risk lies in the increased erosion rates that several previous studies have identified.”

Electoral Area E director Rhona Martin said a moratorium on logging was common sense and she was floored BCTS came forward with the sales schedule they did.

BCTS’ 2022 Okanagan-Columbia Sales Schedule planned logging across 132 hectares impacted by the Two Mile Road wildfire, according to BGC.

“You’d think they’d consider the impacts of the fire when there’s a community down below,” said Martin. She supported looking at the situation again in 2024.

Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz said he supports the moratorium and hoped the CSRD’s referral response letter would send a message to the provincial government, which manages BCTS.

Electoral Area F director Jay Simpson said it shouldn’t be on local government to spend time and money to get studies done to protect communities. He said that should be the province’s responsibility and he found the proposed sales schedule alarming.

Sicamous council will vote on providing a referral response to BCTS against salvage logging in areas impacted by the Two Mile Road wildfire at its Feb. 23 meeting.

Read more: Planned salvage logging near Sicamous prompts look at debris flow risk

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