A report from the Auditor General of B.C. says that the province’s forest service roads (FSRs) have been underfunded and are in need of critical maintenance.
The report, released on Tuesday, says the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) failed to manage safety and environmental risks on FSRs in accordance with its policies.
In particular, the key findings from the Auditor General include issues with a lack of funding that impacted maintenance and repair work.
The audit found that from 2019 to 2020, natural resource districts received only about 25 per cent of their budget requests for maintenance on priority roads. This led to about $9 million worth of maintenance and repair work going unfunded.
“We found that the ministry did not complete critical maintenance and repairs on roads, bridges and major culverts that are part of the 58,000 kilometres of FSRs in the province,” said Michael Pickup, auditor general.
According to the report, high priority repairs are overdue on 48 per cent of FSR bridges and major culverts. 3,178 of 6,640 structures are in need of high-priority repairs that are overdue by over 2 years on average.
Information within the FLNRORD on inventory, inspections and maintenance was also inconsistent, difficult to share and sometimes inaccurate.
These data issues made it challenging for the ministry to monitor and track maintenance activity.
The report notes that in some cases FSRs are the only access routes to remote and First Nation communities, and maintenance issues can cause environmental and safety impacts.
The auditor general’s report issued nine recommendations to help the ministry meet its policy expectations for inspection and maintenance work on FSRs.
Among the recommendations is a call for the implementation of policies and procedures to ensure that information on FSRs is complete, accurate and accessible to ministry staff.
The report also recommends better clarity to define the roles and responsibilities of natural resource districts, BC Timber Sales and the Compliance and Enforcement Branch in overseeing maintenance by road use permit holders.