B.C., Huu-ay-aht First Nations announce safety upgrades to Bamfield Road

WatchIn a big step towards making the road to Bamfield safer, the province announced a $30M plan for upgrades. It comes almost a year after two UVIC students were killed in a bus crash.

The B.C. government and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations have announced $30 million for safety upgrades to Bamfield Road, almost a year after a fatal bus crash that claimed the lives of two University of Victoria students.

The announcement was made Friday by Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr., and Tayii H?aw?i? ?iis?in (Hereditary Chief Derek Peters)

John Geerdes of Iowa City, Iowa, and Emma Machado of Winnipeg, Manitoba, both 18, passed away and many other students were injured after a bus crashed on Bamfield Road, en route to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Sept. 13, 2019.

Emma Machado (left) and John Geerdes (right) were killed when a bus filled with UVic students went off a remote logging road near Bamfield back in 2019.

Emma Machado (left) and John Geerdes (right) were killed when a bus filled with UVic students went off a remote logging road near Bamfield back in 2019.

And since the unpaved road opened for public use, eight Huu-ay-aht members have lost their lives on the Bamfield Main Road.

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations has been calling for safety upgrades, saying the 76-kilometre logging road provides a vital link for itizens living in the Huu-ay-aht village of Anacla, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

After the fatal bus crash in September 2019, the province created a working group with Huu-ay-aht First Nations and local forest companies to explore safety and reliability upgrades and develop options for consideration.

“Upgrading the Bamfield Road has been a top priority for our Nation for many years, and we are pleased by today’s announcement,” Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr said.

“By working in a respectful way with Huu-ay-aht to make upgrades to the Bamfield Road a reality, we see that the province is ready to work on true reconciliation with First Nations and is honouring the importance of the safety of our community.

The funding will go to hard surfacing the road with a seal coat.

The road will also have improved drainage through new and upgraded culverts, which will greatly reduce the likelihood of closures due to flooding.

The project also supports the Huu-ay-aht vision for economic growth and diversification in the regional economy, supporting job creation for local businesses in forestry, tourism and construction, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations and B.C. government said.

The total cost of the three-year upgrade project is estimated at $30.7 million. The province will contribute $25.7 million to the project. Huu-ay-aht will contribute the additional $5 million for the project and manage the project with technical support from the consulting firm Urban Systems. Huu-ay-aht will also provide resources, including gravel from gravel pits on their treaty lands, which are expected to result in significant cost savings for the project.

“Huu-ay-aht First Nations have been advocating for these road improvements for many years. Their partnership is central to this important project, which will support reconciliation goals, our treaty relationship and, most importantly, safer travel for Huu-ay-aht members to and from their community,” Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim said.

“This project is also key to building the critical infrastructure the communities in this region need to thrive.”

The road is the main transportation link between Port Alberni and the communities of Bamfield and Anacla for medical, emergency and community access for Huu-ay-aht First Nations members, Bamfield residents, forest companies and their employees, and tourists. It is also the key route to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations, located in the Barkley Sound region on the west coast of Vancouver Island, are part of the Maa-nulth First Nations, which reached a treaty agreement with the federal and provincial governments in 2011.


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