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$31M Bamfield Road project breaks new ground for First Nation, Province of B.C.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations the first Indigenous community to lead major infrastructure project
Officials from Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Mosaic Forest Management, Tseshaht First Nation join Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns and Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne for the official groundbreaking for the Bamfield Main Road resurfacing project, Oct. 18, 2021 at Blenheim Pit. (PHOTO COURTESY HUU-AY-AHT FIRST NATIONS)

Port Alberni – Six gold shovels broke ground Oct. 18 in the territory of Huu-ay-aht First Nations marking the beginning of the physical work for the Bamfield Main Road Surfacing Project.

The project will include significant safety improvements and chipsealing of the 76-kilometre vital link between Bamfield and Port Alberni. It was announced in Victoria in September 2020 and outlined a partnership between the Province of British Columbia, contributing $25.7 million, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations, covering the remaining $5 million.

“Today is an exciting day for our Nation – one we have been working towards for decades,” explained Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “We are standing today in an area where our people have lived for centuries, along the Sarita River. It is an important day because we are finally able to use the resources in the best way for our people. When we can say that is always happening, we will have reached true reconciliation.”

Huu-ay-aht First Nations is making history in British Columbia as the first Indigenous community to lead a road infrastructure project of this size.

Dennis Sr. acknowledged Premier John Horgan and the provincial government for their commitment to this project. He also noted how helpful MP Gord Johns and former MLA Scott Fraser were in making the groundbreaking a reality, as well as the constant support from MLA Josie Osborne and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District director Bob Beckett. Each were present at the event with the exception of Fraser, who sent his regrets.

“The only way to achieve the change we want to see for our Nation is through creating an action plan,” Dennis Sr. said. “That is what the Premier did when he travelled to our community almost two years ago. Because of that, we are partnering in a project that will create a safe, reliable road for travellers.”

“Public safety is at the heart of community well-being,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “We partnered with Huu-ay-aht First Nations to invest in upgrades to critical infrastructure in the area, and I applaud the Huu-ay-aht leadership for their steadfast determination to work towards vital road improvements in their territory that will benefit their community and visitors for years to come.”

Other strong supporters of the project were also in attendance Oct. 18, including Tseshaht Chief Councillor Waamiiš (Wahmeesh Ken Watts), Shannon Janzen from Western Forest Products, and Domenico Iannidinardo from Mosaic. They all spoke of the importance of working together and that this is how true reconciliation can be accomplished.

The groundbreaking took place at the gravel pit that Huu-ay-aht is developing for the project through HGB Gravel LP. This is the first physical work to take place in the project. When completed, Blenheim Pit will supply the gravel needed for the surfacing of the road. The pit is in Huu-ay-aht’s traditional territory, approximately 30 minutes from its village of Anacla, close to Bamfield on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Work on the Bamfield Main Road project began earlier this spring when crews carried out a field survey of the 76-kilometre road, culverts, bridges, legal property boundaries, waterline at Fredrick Lake, water courses, and related infrastructure completed. This data is utilized for three-dimensional (3D) modeling by the road and drainage design team. An environmental study and road drainage and design has also been completed, as has a geotechnical investigation.

Work began in October 2020 by HGB Gravel LP to identify potential gravel sources along the route. Since then, numerous pits have been identified and investigated for their potential. Currently numerous pits are gaining permits for further investigation. Blenheim Pit is first to be developed. Gravel production will carry on through the winter to ensure the required quantities for the road are available.

The road will be constructed in three contract sections of approximately 25 kilometres each.

The contracts will be tendered in January 2022 with work to begin in April 2022 and completed by mid-September. These contracts will carry out the gravel placement, compaction, drainage requirements, and signage. The construction will also raise the road in numerous locations to avoid future flooding issues. New concrete box culverts are to be placed near Fredrick Lake to allow the Western Toad population free movement across the road.

One seal coat contract covering the complete 76.6 km will be tendered in March 2022. The seal coating is expected to be completed by the end of September that allows for weather and other delays. This contract will apply two layers of seal coat and place required barriers. In March 2023, a paving contract will be tendered: this contract will pave the required sections over the previously laid seal coat. The pavement is to be placed on all steep hills, major intersections, and bridge approaches. Along with the pavement, additional barrier sections will be placed to increase the safety in specific locations.

“It is exciting to see this project moving forward. In 2011 when we signed the Maa-nulth Treaty, we knew it would not work unless we work together as a tribe and build partnerships with others.

“The partnership we have with the province is an example of true reconciliation,” explained Tayii Hawilth (Head Hereditary Chief) Derek Peters.

“We have lost too many lives on this essential link to our community. As a nation, we must continue to move forward together with our Ancient Spirit and Modern Minds. Most importantly, we must do it right and honour our sacred principles of ʔiisaak (utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking Care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is one) and the teachings of our ancestors.”

Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. addresses a small group of supporters as he announced work on the $31-million resurfacing of Bamfield Main Road will begin in earnest. (PHOTO COURTESY HUU-AY-AHT FIRST NATIONS)