Net barriers planned for Zeballos to catch mountain rock slides

Zeballos, BC

The small Vancouver Island village of Zeballos will be receiving $750,000 of provincial funding for some much-needed work in its community.

Zeballos is located within the traditional territories of the Ehattesaht First Nation.

The money Zeballos is getting is part of the province’s latest announcement of $8.5 million in provincial emergency preparedness funding.

Zeballos, which has a population of 107, is a village prone to various geohazards, including flooding and slope hazards on its mountain which result in rockslides, rockfall and debris flow.

“This is a very exciting project for us,” Meredith Starkey, the chief administrative officer for Zeballos said of work that can be accomplished now with provincial funds.

Proposed work includes the installation of three flexible net barriers, which would reduce rockfall and debris flow from the village’s mountain.

Portions of the provincial funding will also be utilized to modify a small creek, which tends to flood and has caused property damage in the village.

Starkey, who said her village relies on grant funding for virtually all work undertaken in Zeballos, said the latest provincial money is for a continuation of previous projects carried out.

“I’m sure the province was aware we would be putting in this application,” she said.

Zeballos had received $150,000 in provincial funding in 2018 to update its floodplain map, including a landslide risk assessment of the mountain located in the village’s east end. That assessment included a report of the hazard after a wildfire tore through Zeballos that year.

The village was then awarded an additional $150,000 last year to prepare a slope hazard mitigation feasibility study.

And now, the latest funding is to do the mitigation work which was recommended in the 2020 feasibility study.

Starkey said Zeballos has a two-year window to complete the work described in its latest funding. She is hesitant to pinpoint a possible date of when work might commence.

“I don’t think I want to speculate on a date since we haven’t started the consultation process,” she said.

Since the village is located on Ehattesaht land, officials from the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation need to give their blessing before any work commences. The issue is expected to be raised on Wednesday when the Ehattesaht council has its next meeting.

Ehatteshat Chief Simon John said he was not aware of all the details of the work that would be done with the just-acquired funding.

“We’re pretty joined at the hip,” he said of the relationship maintained between his First Nation and Zeballos. “I don’t foresee a problem.”

Starkey is also anticipating favourable support from the First Nation.

“We’re a remote community and we work together on all sorts of projects,” she said. “We’ve discussed we are doing this work and seeking their support. I think it’s in all of our best interests to do it.”

John said Ehatteshat and Zeballos are currently working together on a project updating its sewer system.

John also said he has a personal reason why he would want to see Zeballos proceed with a project to mitigate a landslide in its community.

“Considering my house is right under the slide, I think I’d rather be safe,” he said.

Since September of 2017 the province has awarded more than $60 million through its Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to various recipients across British Columbia.

Zeballos was not the only Vancouver Island community to receive some money in the province’s latest announcement, made earlier this month.

The K'omoks First Nation is getting $472,000. Funds will go towards a project to protect against erosion which is affecting the community.

Michele Babchuk, the MLA for North Island, is also supportive of the grant.

“One of the things that locals love most about Zeballos is its spectacular natural surroundings, but those surroundings come with natural hazards,” she said. “Smart investments like these will help reduce the risks from things like slides and flooding to people in town.”

The mitigation work will be primarily focused on the north side of the village’s mountain, near the bridge in the community which spans the Zeballos River.

Once work commences it is expected to take 14 months to finish the entire projects.

Zeballos officials believe it could also take up to eight months in order to obtain all the various permits and regulatory approvals required, to abide by the Fisheries Act and the Water Sustainability Act.

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