A stretch of Highway 19A near Fanny Bay will be closed for about six weeks as crews replace a culvert.
Locals had little notice though, says Area A Director Daniel Arbour, as the closure runs from Aug. 12 through Sept. 20.
He started hearing on Monday there will be a detour for the portion of the route between Cook Creek Bridge and Berray Road, south of Fanny Bay on the way to Deep Bay and Bowser.
“All the businesses in Fanny Bay are calling me right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of concern because, obviously, it’s at the height of the tourism season…. We got notification two days ago that this was going to be a full road closure.”
For these businesses, this is the time of year, Arbour says, when they make much of the revenue, and none was able to plan for the road closure. He does not expect it will have as much effect on other communities south of Courtenay along the Old Island Highway, such as Union Bay or Royston.
Arbour said he understands the work needs to be done and there is a limited fisheries window for approval, but many in the area have contacted him about the timing, both in terms of the lack of notice and that the work is happening during the busy tourist season, as well as the fact that it is a full closure.
“People are pretty upset,” he said. “I’m not sure what can be done.”
He wants to send a message to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) that the lack of notice is not acceptable, but he is also encouraging people in the Comox Valley to head down to Fanny Bay for a visit and help out their local businesses during the duration of the work.
“It won’t be closed to Fanny Bay, just south of Fanny Bay,” he said.
A representative from Mainroad North Island, which handles the highway contracts for this service area, said they received notice from the MoTI about two weeks ago to install new pipe. They also said there is a limited window from environment or fisheries officials to do the work, and the end of the current six-week time frame is already approaching the end of that window.
There was a washout at the site back in 2017, with only a temporary fix applied, so the Province wants to put in a new culvert designed for 200-year flood event flows. The current 2.5-m culvert will be replaced by a pipe that is 11 metres wide by 3.5 metres tall. The concern is that the pipe there now is in poor shape and might not withstand another winter.
Mainroad has uploaded notice of the work on the DriveBC website and will be posting signage around the area.
MoTI said in a statement that Mainroad notified stakeholders on Aug. 7 and an email was sent to the Comox Valley Regional District on Aug. 6. As well, message boards were placed on the highway last week to notify the public of the closure.
The ministry says the project will be delivered primarily by the maintenance contractor, along with ministry staff and a senior biologist for field environmental and fisheries expertise.
“It was necessary to get this work done during the summer months during lower stream flows. Fish passage and habitat restoration is also a very important component of this project. Crews will ensure a sustainable and improved stream crossing,” the statement from MoTI says.