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Charles Creek debris barrier catches heavy load

Blog by Nick Swinburne | January 10th, 2011

Charles Creek debris barrier catches heavy load

Rocks and trees brought down by rain and snow have been removed

By Susan Hollis

Heavy snowfall and rains in recent weeks created so much build up of material behind a debris barrier in Charles Creek, near Lions Bay, that crews were brought in to remove it.

"Small material is meant to get through; the idea is to hold back all the big material and it just filters through so that the water can drain, so we'll just need a couple excavators and tandem trucks," said Brian Atkins, British Columbia's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure operations manager for the 
Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky and Upper Levels region.

"The material is a little smaller this time so it might not need as much drilling and blasting as in previous years."

Rolling along the wide curves of the improved Sea to Sky Highway, it is easy to forget that we live in unruly, rugged terrain.

Excellent snow clearing services, well-maintained trails and convenient roadside viewpoint pullouts make it seem as though nature has graciously accommodated our place of residence, but the opposite is true.

Trial and tragedy have shaped our communities over the past 100 years and the present standard of safety is pinned to the backs of those who suffered greatly in the unforgiving hands of the Coast Mountains.

A prime example of just how much security is provided by our engineered landscapes is the debris barrier on Charles Creek. Last week the catchment, located above an alluvial fan that cradles a railway, roads and houses in Lions Bay, held back over 5,000 cubic metres of loose mountainside - a wily mixture of scree slope material formed from frost-shattered rock debris.

Historically the area has been prone to landslides but today the talus is diverted into the creek from a number of drainage patterns surrounding the torrent structure. It prevents the creek from damming, which can result in major surges of water and rock tearing down the mountain towards the sea when the build-up breaks through.

The debris will be hauled a short distance from Charles Creek to the Brunswick pit where it will be crushed and reused for fill on other projects in the area.

With a capacity of 33,000 cubic metres, the Charles Creek debris barrier was constructed in 1985 as part of an improved safety strategy for the Sea to Sky region. It is the largest debris barrier of its kind between Pemberton and Vancouver.