Zeballos road fix requested

Village is urging the government to improve the dangerous condition of the 78 kilometre gravel road

The Village of Zeballos is urging the government to improve the dangerous condition of the 78 kilometre gravel road from Highway 19 into the community.

The Village is working with the Ehattesaht/Chinehkint First Nation, the Nuchatlaht First Nation and the Kyuquot/Checleseht First Nation for an improved transportation system.

All four parties have a number of concerns, including proper access to emergency care.

“Bouncing over the road in an ambulance sometimes results in further injury,” said Eileen Lovestrom, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Zeballos, in a letter to the province. “Sometimes an air lift is required, adding more expense to the health care system, because the road is too rough to travel.”

Lovestrom added that there is concern for every single resident who travels the road because of the “abuse of the physical body bouncing over the road.” Residents also face ongoing maintenance expenses to repair and replace vehicles abused by the chronic condition of the road, which is the main access into not only Zeballos but the First Nations reserves and Fair Harbour.

Lovestrom said the initial estimate to pave the entire road from Highway 19 to Fair Harbour is around $15 million.

But the village believes the economic spinoffs would be well worth it.

According to briefing notes from a meeting between the four parties advocating for road improvements, 20 million pounds of seafood was shipped from Zeballos during the 2012 pilchard season. Trucks travelled in and out of the village to pick up the products and take it to the market. At that time, fishing lodges were full and the hotels and motels often had no vacancies. The parties agree further that the area’s tourism market share has been lost due to the road conditions.

Complicating matters, however, is that the most dangerous section of the 78-km gravel road is a 10-km stretch under Western Forest Product’s road use permit. According to the meeting notes, the road has “many large dangerous potholes, steep rock walls, sharp drop-offs to the water and small pullouts for meeting traffic. It has been identified with signage as a ‘high-accident’ area. It is chronically the least accessible section of road in the entire 78 km of road from Highway 19 to Fair Harbour (and) has contributed to five fatalities in traffic accidents.”

The village and three First Nations would like Western’s road use permit cancelled and the entire road managed by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.