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Old Fort landslide report received

The Peace River Regional District may soon decide the fate of Old Fort evacuees. The regional district says it received the final report from Westrek Geotechnical Services on Oct.
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Old Fort landslide, temporary road access work, Oct. 20, 2018.

The Peace River Regional District may soon decide the fate of Old Fort evacuees.

The regional district says it received the final report from Westrek Geotechnical Services on Oct. 29, which has been studying the cause and spread of the landslide, and the potential for it to keep moving.

The report has gone for peer and legal review before it will be sent back for the board's consideration.

Last week, the regional district said the outlook was was favourable for some residents to be allowed home, once road standards are met.

The regional district said it was working with the ministry of transportation and infrastructure to ensure 24/7 operation of a semi-permanent road back into the community that can support residential traffic, emergency vehicles, school buses, and other service vehicles.

Westrek has already said the landslide started because of a failure in the bedrock at the head of the landslide, where a gravel quarry had been operating on the hillside above the Old Fort community.

The ground beneath the slide had been moving for months before it finally gave way in a massive collapse on Sept. 30, sending more than eight million cubic metres of material down through a gully and destroying a swath of Old Fort Road before reaching the Peace River.

Residents were ordered to evacuate Oct. 7, one week after the slide began. The landslide triggered another slide to the west of it, below the iconic Peace River viewpoint, which remains closed, and sent a large tension crack splitting out to the east toward Old Fort homes.

Westrek said last week it was analyzing its data and assessing the future risks to the community. There's been little movement on the landslide, but that could change, with weather a key factor in whether the slide will move again and get worse, geologists say.

"We're trying to work out, if this thing fails, where does it go to? And are there houses on the east side of the main slide that could be at risk?" said Tim Smith, a senior engineering geologist with Westrek.

"We're trying to get an understanding on how fast this slide is likely to move, and does that give them (residents) time to get out if something goes on."

"If the slide goes again, how fast does it move, how big do we think it's going to be, and where does it end up getting to? From there, we can say, 'Well, this is what we recommend,'" he said.

The regional district has already lifted some evacuation orders and alerts around the landslide, but most of Old Fort remains under evacuation order.

Power to the community was restored Oct. 22.

Meanwhile, Telus is expected to start work this week to bring in new cable and restore its services to the community.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.