2010 Ministry of Transportation report showed Coquihalla section already vulnerable to high rainfall, Pineapple Express identified as” significant risk” to infrastucture…

Furthermore, Weather Network Meteorologist Tyler Hamilton identified this exact worst case scenario for flash floods and slides, the morning of November 14th from his twitter account.

He had already forecast abnormally high rainfall, warned again that the atmospheric river would stall and funnel into the Fraser Valley and said he didn’t know how BC would escape a major flood event. On the 13th he warned it would be close to monthly average rainfall in 48 hours for some people. And as early as the 11th he was showing that not only was the event an atmospheric river, it was a pineapple express as well, which is the deadly combination that melts snow at elevation as intense rainfall occurs, doubling the amount of water flowing downstream.

Clearly if a Weather Network meteorologist can see the signs of a problem brewing before it actually becomes a threat to life and infrastructure, both BC Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Transportation should be able to. Particularly with respect to the Coquihalla, because their own reports identified risk more than 10 years ago. If they couldn’t see forecast what Tyler did, one has to ask why.

A 2010 BC Ministry of Transportation report identified the exact worse case scenario that occurred last weekend in BC, as a large risk to at least one section of the Coquihalla highway, which resulted in complete failure and washout of several sections. The entire report can be read here https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/driving-and-transportation/environment/climate-action/hwy5_coquihalla.pdf , but I have screenshot some of the key pages below for you.

It’s interesting to note that BC Chief Engineer Dirk Nyland was part of the team on this report. He is still with the current government.

Who knew we had reached the conditions written about with a pineapple express on the Coquihalla Sunday morning ? ( and perhaps earlier. It would be interesting to see the hour by hour weather record for the summit to see exactly when and at what elevation the snowmelt Tyler Hamilton reported online, actually began)

Currently the BC government has a series of electronic weather monitors, instruments and cams that keep track of road conditions, but it is not clear from this web page or not who is the actual person for it, or for reporting high risk conditions like the ones that occurred Saturday night and Sunday morning.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-environment/weather-network-program

And would that person know that snowmelt combined with heavy rain equals floods? They should. Tyler mentioned there was unusually high snowpack early this year, meaning more to melt as temperatures rose and rainfall accumulated. I’m surprised Dirk Nyland didn’t take a look and say ” Hey guys we might have a problem here.”

Between the information forecast by Weather Networks Tyler Hamilton, and this 2010 report from the Ministry of Transportation, its pretty hard for either Public Safety Minister or Premier Horgan to say they had no idea these kinds of ” unprecedented ” events were coming or would be this bad, or that they couldn’t have done more. It’s all on paper. The signs were there, its just a matter of when the snow began melting up in the mountains….

Perhaps Farnworth or Horgan could not have done more on their own, but its clear someone in government could have.

When it is the provincial government who monitors and maintains the highways, and maintains the road cams, the weather monitoring stations at the peak of the Coquihalla and makes the call weather to close roads or not under their jurisdiction, it is ridiculous to point fingers to local authorities and smaller communities who do not have the funds or access to monitor the conditions uphill or upstream of them.

Is the weather monitoring system working the way it should? Was the Coquihalla drainage ever upgraded to account for climate change and logged clear cut slopes above and around them? Who failed to see an early snowfall accumulation that was melting with warm temps and heavy nonstop rain was going to cause floods that would take out so much of the highways, flood cities and cause massive slides? Because the evidence was all there.

This is the text of a portion of Premier Horgans public address yesterday

I don’t who keeps briefing him on how to respond at these pressers, but they gave him quite a bit of incorrect information here. If he had someone write this for him, they should be fired. Because if there is one report on climate risks to infrastructure that were identified 10 years ago, there are more. And for the BC Liberals to make hay on this, asking why the government didn’t do more – which isn’t a bad or wrong question to ask – someone should be asking Shirley Bond, Todd Stone and even Kevin Falcon who is trying to be leader again, what exactly did their government do after this report was issued? All of those people were transportation ministers at one time or another. Each deserves a hard look at what and how they managed the highway assets and weather monitoring, as do the current government and ministers.

There was even futher work done on atmospheric rivers, how they will impact BC and how communities should be preparing, in 2014. Who was in government then ? The BC Liberals. https://www.pacificclimate.org/sites/default/files/publications/Atmospheric_Rivers-Final.pdf

Not only were impacts identified of atmospheric rivers, there was an action plan given to address readiness and ensure better weather monitoring, forecasting and modelling.

I don’t want to ever hear a BC Liberal or BC NDP politician in this province say “We couldn’t have known.” when it comes to climate change. Especially when it comes to atmospheric rivers and pineapple expresses. It’s just not true.

You do know. You just didn’t heed your own governments reports, and you didn’t prepare the way you should have. And you all bear the burden of responsibility and working together now to make it right. Because it will happen again. Might I suggest you start by making Tyler Hamilton your lead forecaster?

14 thoughts on “2010 Ministry of Transportation report showed Coquihalla section already vulnerable to high rainfall, Pineapple Express identified as” significant risk” to infrastucture…

  1. 1987 Inquiry into building the Highway three years after it was ‘finished’

    Click to access coquihallahighwayprojects.pdf

    Report of the Commissioner Inquiry into the Coquihalla and Related Highway Project.
    In other words there was no budget, and it was built so Premier Bill Bennett could have it ready, early, a rush job, for Transportation Expo 86 in Vancouver.

    Detail Pages 209 of 219
    Construction detail on the Coquihalla Highway; build the road, protect the environment, etc;
    Peers Creek to Ten Mile Creek; River diversion; high retaining wall; rock stabilization;
    Ten Mile Creek to Sownque: Two major river diversions; earth retaining walls, debris torrent control;
    Sowaque to Ladner Creek: Two river diversions; massive earth slide over 1,000,000 cubic metres;
    Ladner Creek to Shylock: Two large reinforced earthwalls on short section;
    Shylock Pit: Aggregate Crushing and stockpiling over 1,250,000 tonnes of aggregate;
    Shylock to Portia …. Major Pipeline, Avalanche control, water problems, complex;
    Portia to Miranda: narrow and steep sided mountain valley; existing pipeline;
    Portia to Box Canyon: Precast supply of uniquely engineered concrete culvert;
    Miranda – Box Canyon Precast concrete culvert;
    Box Canyon to Great Bear No. 5: Massive, difficult section;

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  2. A quote from my previous post.

    “Let us also remember this singular fact, it was a massive weather event that lead to the abandonment of the kettle Valley Railway from Hope to Merrit, as major washouts caused damage so extensive in the late 50’s that the CPR did not do any repair and abandoned that portion of line.”

    The Ministry of Transportation knew very well that a highway on the Coq would be vulnerable to weather events but did not design the highway to survive those events.

    History is a subject many do not follow, but history is showing that the Coq and the Connector was built to spur property development in the Okanangan, primarily the Penticton – Kelowna corridor. Designed to be a high speed route (5 hours travel time) from Vancouver to Kelowna. As the then premier was a Mr. Bill Bennett, whose home was in Kelowna, it is easy to see who shared in the profits.

    By offering quick times, commercial operators switched from the train to trucks and as the trucking industry is heavily subsidized, virtually all commercial goods switched from rail to road. The rails are now gone from Kelowna and trucking freight is the only option. so much for global warming. The highway was also built on the cheap, fudging tunnels here, bigger bridges and retaining walls there which in the end cost future generations massive amounts of money.

    The Coq became a symbol of fast driving and the good life, but those who did not read history, did not know that the Coq had weather issues, major weather issues. The Coq also continued the notion that roads were the transportation imperative for the future. Well the future is now and the Coq has been hit with major damage, damage so great that the province will have to source monies from other transportation projects to pay for damages incurred.

    The really sad part is, those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it and I fear Horgan, Farnsworth, and Fleming do not read history.

    As Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Merrit, and Princeton drown for lack of diking and drainage pumps; as Hope is isolated by landslides, Vancouver is cut off from the rest of Canada, our politicians will refuse to accept responsibility, refuse to plan for the environmental future, will pretend all will be normal soon enough, continue doing the the same thing over again, hoping for different results.

    Addendum:

    Back in 1983, I was traveling on the Zillertalbahn, a quaint narrow gauge railway in Austria. The Zillertalban, follows the Ziller river and i remarked how high the dikes were, at least 4 metres higher than the river bank and of course they were, to protect the towns and villages along its route from flash floods from extreme weather events.

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    1. Evil Eye, you make some very good points. Yes, that highway was built so mini WAC had something to show off for expo 86. At the time I recall a business man writing a letter to the editor saying he had seen an Alberta company working on it and he wasn’t paying taxes for the money to go there. That ought to have been one clue things would go wrong.

      Most of the politicians today do not know about previous floods, the rail line which was closed in the 1950s. Bennett wanted a fast route through to the O.K. Others suggested that wasn’t the best route and the money would be better spent upgrading the Hope Princeton and the Trans Canada. The Coq in the winter is a mess. mini WAC also privitized highway maintenance in the 1980s and trust me, the highways have not ever been as cleared of snow since that time. Yes, B.C. had a highway maintenance department. In the winter they kept the snow of the highways and in the summer they did repairs. That is what they did, looked after the highways and did not have to give any consideration to making a profit. After the private companies took over the trips Kelowna to Vernon were a whole new thrill in driving. During the 1970s I thought nothing of dirivng from Vancouver to the O.K. on a friday night. Roads were good or closed.

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    1. Could be. They were all huge fans of privatization of everything. That was the birth of P3’s in BC: Public Private Partnerships. It was believed the private partner took the risk for the public project, or at least that was how it was sold. In reality, these P3 projects were really nothing more than lucrative investments for the private partner.

      Case in point is the Sea to Sky highway and the shadow tolls on it ( in government terms shadow tolls are called vehicle usage payments). The sea to sky highway has been so lucrative as an investment vehicle that it has been flipped from private investment fund to fund and I have written about this extensively here.

      Its my belief no private partner would be willing to take on the risk associated with a highway like the Coquihalla, because of the terrain it cuts through. And as the government report I linked to above details, it wasn’t built with climate change differences in weather in mind. It clearly details the enhancements needed to upgrade drainage and in 2010 was already showing signs of not being able to handle heavy rainfall. They even detailed risks associated with pine beetle ravaged empty slopes not being able to absorb or hold rain and yet clear-cuts have been allowed all over in the slopes above it and along other highways.

      Why anyone in government acts surprised is embarrassing. Not only were these events known more than a decade ago, they were told what to do to mitigate and minimize risk including enhancing weather monitoring and forecasting.

      I’m eager to discover how much of this upgrading etc was actually done. As I also wrote about the sea to sky retaining walls issues that resulted in extensive repairs being done, government doesn’t have a great record of having oversight on work done by contractors. In that case, the contractor Kiewit, used substandard and unapproved rebar in the walls which ultimately began to fail. Yet it had been approved when built.

      Tell me how that happens.

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      1. The Canada Line is another example of a government P-3 that in reality was not a P-3.
        Metro’s especially mini-metro are not good candidates for P-3’s as they are costly and ridership returns are not all that great.

        The Canada Line has 40 metre long station platforms and can only operate 2-car trains. The Campbell government chased away both Asltom and Siemens because they wanted to build an enhanced LRT line that would service both Steveston and ironwood mall and the Olympic skating rink.

        As the cost escalated past $2 billion, the risk for the the potential concessionaire SNC Lavalin was too great and the government assumed risk, plus guaranteeing a minimum of a $100 million annually for “maintenance” costs.

        In the end, SNC Lavalin bid against SNC Lavalin and to no ones surprise SNC Lavalin won the contract.

        to date TransLink has paid well over $1 billion more, than the advertised $2.2 billion, with 35 year concession seeing almost $4 billion in extra money paid to the concessionaire SNC Lavalin and the Quebec Caisse,

        So successful is the Canada Line financial tool, it has formed the basis for the Montreal REM system, What the BC taxpayer has got is an under-built mini-metro, with a maximum capacity of about 9,000 pphpd and to increase capacity, a now $1.5 to $2 billion rebuild is needed. A molder streetcar could provide a higher capacity at a fraction of the cost.

        The question one must ask, was the Coq designed in the same way, grossly under-built for the conditions?

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  3. Looking back to our $50,000 mortgage on our 910 square foot home (including the two porches) in 1981 where interest rates hit a high of 22.75%, pales, I suppose, in comparison to today’s low rates and large price tags on the homes. Either way, a lot of my fellow workers back then threw their keys through the bank’s mailbox and we all headed off to UIC. I find it ironical though, that Premier Bill Bennett used the Coquihalla highway to generate jobs because of that recession and here’s Premier John Horgan having to clean up the Coquihalla, once and for all???, which creates jobs again because of Covid-19 and hopefully not another recession.

    ——————-
    https://www.bcbusiness.ca/the-kelowna-conservative-who-built-vancouver

    … And, dear to the heart of the Okanagan-born premier, there was the long-awaited Coquihalla Highway through Merritt to Kamloops. Bud Smith says the original rationale for the Coquihalla was twofold. It was a way of sharing some of the wealth that people in the rest of the province were seeing sprinkled in the big city. “And it would make it easier for people who came to Expo to also visit the Interior,” says Smith. “As it happened, though, it made it easier for people from the interior to get to Expo.” But the impact on the province was significant and lasting, he says, adding that Bennett was, very consciously, using these major projects to help build the province out of the recession.

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    1. The financial shock of “The Deluge” reverberate for decades.

      This is from the Rail for the Valley blog, regarding the cost escalations of the Langley Skytrain extension. It concerns cement and structural steel.

      ” “If they don’t have the new business plan and business case scenarios completely done for the line by March 2022 at the absolute latest, then expect a 10%-25% cost increase across the board, over last July’s estimate.” He continued, “many things like the prices, the cost and availability of equipment and construction materials, are just changing so fast right now, you have got to put a cost lid on this project now, or you are done. 2023 is way too late! The End of March. You have got until then, if you want to keep a handle on capital costs” His last warning was, “anything beyond March, and big cost increases will occur. This isn’t a case of poor government management. Everything is just changing so fast right now, by 2023 costs, availability of construction materials will be entirely different than it is right now.”

      Further….

      “This does not include inflationary costs of construction materials, which is usually considerably higher than the basic inflation rate. Structural concrete prices increases alone, could add anywhere from $36 Million to $55 Million per year on top of just the basic inflation.”

      What this means is two fold, the cost to rebuild the Coq, will be much higher than estimates being made today. Cement will be in short supply, further driving up costs across all sectors!

      Hang on your seats folks, we are going on one hell of a fiscal ride!

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      1. might be a better idea to put those sky trains and subways on hold until the government fixes the highways and does something about inadequate dykes in the province. Its easier to sit in a traffic jam than to die in a flood.

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  4. Interesting, Kerkhoff built the Coquihalla and their website invites readers to see the 18 bridges, but the links are no longer functioning.
    https://www.kerkhoff.ca/projects/18-coquihalla-highway-bridges/

    “All Projects
    Travel back in time to the 1960’s to see all the projects we’ve helped bring to life – you may be surprised at which ones you recognize

    ’18 Coquihalla Highway Bridges'”
    —————————-
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Bennett

    On the other hand, his ostensibly-antisocialist government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring Expo 86 to Vancouver and related projects including BC Place, the city’s SkyTrain rapid transit system, and the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre.[3] His government also built the Coquihalla Highway at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars[3] with non-union Kerkhoff Construction Company as the main contractor. It distributed free shares to British Columbians for the British Columbia Resources Investment Corporation (BCRIC).

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    1. I dont think when the bridge was built, that anything like pine beetle mass kill off of trees and atmospheric rivers was anticipated. But certainly post 2010, there was no excuse to not upgrade the highway infrastructure to meet the increased water flow and run off from barren hills and intense rain. I’ve been unable to locate anything indicating what has been upgraded or not.

      I did see the report Alison Creekside tweeted. And its quite damning with respect to what was know and anticipated for slides in the Chilliwack Hope area. I know no one wants to pull the trigger with closures but when there is a situation like we had brewing Friday through Saturday with such intense rain and runoff in an area this governments own 2019 report indicated was a likely slide risk, why the hell wasn’t that highway closed?

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  5. We do know Meggs and Penny Bellam work in the Premiers office and they ought to go. One of them might have paid attention, given their salaries and positions, but I’m sure they had other things to do, like have a life, dealing with the drug and homeless crisis which is more their thing. Impending bad weather and its impact, ya, not their thing. Now if a government employee were to approach them or the D.M. of the various responsible ministries they would not have gotten through the front door. It is doubtful any one really pays much attention to the things you mention.

    Yes, it was on the weather news, etc. but really which government official pays any attention? We all know it rains but no one pays attention. The Cabinet Ministers have a whole host of things they’re responsible for and rain isn’t at the top of their agenda or an earthquake.

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