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Report highlights unsafe forestry bridges

A forest service road bridge.  - Government of B.C. image
A forest service road bridge.
— image credit: Government of B.C. image

By Barb Brouwer/Black Press

There are problems in the forest, but nobody is talking about where they are.

An investigation of 216 bridges constructed throughout the province in the past three years has found numerous non-compliances with legislation and over two dozen bridges that may not be safe for industrial use, according to a report released March 5 by the Forest Practices Board.

The investigation carried out last summer by the independent watchdog found 19 bridges that were obviously unsafe and another 13 bridges that had serious safety concerns.

Forty per cent of the bridges did not have complete plans and in the case of 74 bridges, the required sign-off by a professional that the bridge was designed and built correctly was not completed, states the report.

“What we found is highly disturbing, given the emphasis government and industry have placed on safety in recent years,” said Forest Practices Board chair Tim Ryan.

“The problem is not the lack of legislation or guidance by professional associations, the problem is that some professionals are not performing to the standards government and the public expect.”

While the report includes photos of some of the unsafe bridges, the Forest Practices Board would not reveal their location.

“That was not the purpose of the report; the purpose was to determine if bridges were being properly designed and built,” says Ryan, noting the responsibility lies with the Association of BC Forest Professionals and Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists. “When we started, we involved those to organizations so they were fully aware … the organizations will take that up with their members.”

In a joint release also issued March 5, the two organizations stated their concerns and indicated they would be following up on the board’s investigation – and using “enforcement and discipline systems” if necessary.

“In addition the professions will update the current professional practice guidelines, identify the necessary skills and competencies required for this work, and undertake specialized professional development with members in this area of practice,” notes the release.

And government will be watching too.

Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, David Thomson, says he is disappointed by the findings and expects the unsafe bridges have already been corrected, or will be immediately.

“I have asked staff to follow-up with the two professional associations and forestry associations to identify and address contributing factors to substandard bridge-building practices and to come up with an action plan within 60 days,” he says. “As recommended by the board, I’ve also directed ministry compliance and enforcement staff to include bridges in their inspection plans.”

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government.

The board can investigate and report on current forestry and range issues and make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.

 

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