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Beavers get a reprieve from blame in landslide

Ministry of Transportation workers examine a large pile of debris of trees have taken out the bridge and road on Mable Lake Road along with power lines some 25 kilometres east of Enderby, B.C. on Friday, May 2, 2014.


Emergency workers are retreating from blaming beaver dams for a landslide that left hundreds trapped in an isolated B.C. Interior region without power and road access over the weekend.

By Sunday, BC Hydro had reconnected the area to the grid, and officials said they had reopened the road in the blocked-off section east of Enderby between Vernon and Sicamous.

During the weekend, however, the situation was dire enough that medical supplies, bottled water and generators were airlifted into the area by helicopter, said a spokesman for the Regional District of the North Okanagan.

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The official said the medical supplies were shipped in largely as a precaution. There were no reports of injuries.

After the Friday slide of mud and trees east of Enderby, an official said beavers were to blame.

"An ice-dammed beaver dam burst and sent the entire contents of Dale Lake down Cooke Creek," Jackie Pearase, a North Okanagan District officer, said in a series of e-mails to the CBC detailed on the broadcaster's website.

Ms. Pearase did not respond to calls or e-mails throughout Sunday, but her office said it was backing off the possibility of beaver dams being to blame.

In an e-mail exchange, a general manager with the Regional District of the North Okanagan said the investigation into the cause of the landslide is at its early stages.

"The role of the beaver dam/ice is speculative at this moment," wrote David Sewell. "Those investigations will continue and be undertaken by geotechnical experts. At this moment, the best information is that this incident was caused by a release of water, which occurred when a debris dam let go. The cause of that debris is under investigation."

Mr. Sewell did not respond to calls seeking further comment.

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Greg McCune, a councillor in the municipality of Enderby, said the beaver-dam scenario didn't make sense. "I doubt that that had anything to do with it," he said in an interview on Sunday, suggesting only "awfully big" beavers could build such dams.

Mr. McCune said that logs and trees fell, over time, and become a natural dam that inevitably give way due to building pressure from runoff. "The water brings everything down."

The trouble began Friday morning when a debris slide washed out five hydro poles and 14 strands of wire, blocking the road into the region, said Dag Sharman spokesman for the Thompson, Okanagan and Columbia Region of BC Hydro.

He said the slide left 700 without power and isolated. But by Saturday, hydro crews had a repair plan and were able to restore power to all affected customers that evening, Mr. Sharman said. "It was a very significant event with that number of customers out for that period of time."

Residents in the area, which has poor cell coverage, were left without land-line service. Telus crews were scheduled Monday to begin work restoring communications, Mr. Sewell wrote.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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