The City of Port Alberni has agreed to support a letter asking for the provincial and federal governments to create an official alternative access road into the community.
The West Coast of Vancouver Island was mostly cut off from the east side of the Island after a wildfire forced the closure of Highway 4 for more than two weeks. A detour was opened up via Bamfield Main to Lake Cowichan, but this route was lengthy, with limited visibility, slow-moving traffic and lack of amenities for food, fuel, washrooms and emergency services.
In response, Nuu-chah-nulth nations from Port Alberni and the West Coast drafted a letter calling on the Government of Canada and the Province of B.C. to “make immediate investments” in securing a permanent second access road into Port Alberni from the east side of the Island.
“We now know the potential impacts the current Highway 4 closure around Cameron Lake due to the Cameron Bluffs fire can have on our economy, food security, fuel, social and mental health,” the letter states.
The letter also asks for more investments in wildfire resources, including a contract with the Port Alberni-based Coulson Aviation.
Port Alberni city council voted unanimously to support the letter during a meeting on Monday, June 26.
“What we hear from the community, it is our role to bring that forward to the province,” said Mayor Sharie Minions.
Councillor John Douglas also wanted to see the city write its own letter calling for a secondary access road.
“Two large corporations not only control our access out into the forest, but now they control access in and out of our community,” said Douglas, referring to Mosaic Forest Management (which manages both TimberWest and Island Timberlands). “We need to have a secondary access road for the Alberni Valley from the east side of the Island.”
Councillor Cindy Solda also wanted to see a copy of the letter brought forward to the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) conventions.