BC Hydro selects new alignment for Highway 29 redesign
FORT ST. JOHN — BC Hydro has selected a new realignment for Highway 29 at Cache Creek/Bear Flat, following an extensive consultation process with Indigenous groups and local property owners.
In December 2017, the Province of B.C. asked BC Hydro and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to work with Treaty 8 First Nations and local property owners to redesign the Highway 29 realignment at Cache Creek/Bear Flat to reduce the effects on potential burial sites and First Nation identified areas of cultural importance.
The selected realignment option – which was developed through consultation – is located north of the original route and is approximately 240 metres away from a potential burial site and 370 metres from an area identified to be of cultural importance. This option is the second shortest route of the three considered, meets provincial design and safety requirements, and includes a longer bridge at the Cache Creek crossing.
Compared to the two other options that were considered, the selected route:
- has similar or lower impacts to archaeological and heritage sites, and
- has lower impacts to private lands and agricultural lands than the most northern route evaluated.
BC Hydro will be continuing work for this portion of the realignment, including geotechnical investigations and drilling. Full construction for this segment of highway realignment is expected to be underway by spring/summer 2020.
Construction activities for the western four kilometres of the highway realignment at Cache Creek/Bear Flat, which is not affected by the alternate realignment options that were studied for the eastern section of this segment, will begin at the end of September 2018.
Highway 29 connects Hudson’s Hope to Fort St. John and runs along the north side of the Peace River. The creation of the Site C reservoir will require six segments of Highway 29 to be realigned over a total distance of about 30 kilometres.
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In January 2018, BC Hydro began engaging with Indigenous groups and property owners to share information and seek feedback on two alternate realignment options. Indigenous groups and property owners were provided the draft evaluation criteria that would be used for selecting a new realignment and were invited to comment on the criteria.
A third realignment option was developed in early March as a result of the consultation process and became one of the realignment options that BC Hydro assessed.
Indigenous groups were asked to identify areas of cultural importance around the three realignment options. Several Indigenous groups conducted ground-truthing investigations and reported on their findings. Indigenous groups were also invited, and some participated, as cultural monitors and archaeological field assistants during the geotechnical and archaeological investigations.
Throughout the spring and summer of 2018, BC Hydro undertook a number of investigations to inform the evaluation process criteria, and continued consultations with property owners and Indigenous groups.
In late July 2018, BC Hydro met with five Indigenous groups and seven property owners to share and seek feedback on the preliminary findings of the investigations and evaluation criteria. Feedback received throughout the consultation was then considered as part of the final evaluation process.
The following is a description of the three realignment options that were assessed:
- Option 1: shifts the alignment north about 170 metres from a potential burial site and 90 metres from the sweat lodge. This option has a bridge that is 145 metres longer and an additional 80 metres of road length compared to the original alignment. The additional combined bridge and road length is 225 metres.
- Option 2: shifts the alignment even further north about 300 metres away from a potential burial site and 590 metres from the sweat lodge. This option has a bridge that is 245 metres longer and an additional 720 metres of road length compared to the original alignment. The additional combined bridge and road length is 965 metres.
- Option 3 (selected): shifts the alignment between the first and second options about 240 metres away from a potential burial site and 370 metres from the sweat lodge. This has a bridge that is 195 metres longer and an additional 250 metres of road length compared to the original alignment. The additional combined bridge and road length is 445 metres.