SUMMING IT UP GRAND FORKS: Railway remains open for business and creeks cause havoc

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
December 28th, 2012

Infrastructure, slag sluffing and marketing were key topics at Grand Forks city council during their last meeting on Monday, Dec. 17.

With a flair of complete surprise, Mayor Brian Taylor announced that the international rail line running from Grand Forks south to the United States will remain open for the next five years. The rail line is owned by BNSF railways and operated by OmniTrax. 

“OmniTrax, BNSF and the consortium of shippers have come to an agreement giving us some security on the railway for the next five years,” said Taylor. “The companies got together and hammered out a deal that meant there’s no stoppage in service.”

In 2009 OmniTrax began the long process of abandoning the line claiming that the cost of the maintenance far outweighed the income.  The city became involved hosting public meetings, funding an economic analysis of the line, and supporting the businesses who rely on the railway for transporting their products to market – primarily Roxul West Inc., International Forest Products Ltd. and Pacific Abrasives.

Taylor attributed the success to the hard work of area C director Grace McGregor and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary in the initial phases and the city for holding the course in identifying the importance of the rail line to the area.

“I congratulate council and city staff for the role that we played in making this deal come through,” added Taylor. “There were a lot of moments that we thought that it was going to be the end of the railway but it certainly shows that… being a catalyst worked very well.”

See past stories on the railway:

Grand Forks council funds railway study

Railway abandonment notice given to the feds

Branding on track

Councillors Bob Kendel and Gary Smith noted that the branding project for the city’s marketing and promotions is on track and they expressed confidence in the results they have seen to date.

“I was at the Story and Co. update session for the branding and it seems really on track,” said Smith. “They’ve got the pulse of the community through all their surveys and interviews. (Based on) what they’ve provided us so far, I look forward to some really interesting and positive results coming out of that.”

Boundary Road Culvert Replacement

City works crew had to act quickly to start the work to replace a collapsed culvert on Boundary road between Donaldson Drive and Highway 3 near the trail two weeks ago. Council had to formally approve the costs of the repair which at the time of the meeting was already underway.

“This is a key piece of infrastructure in that it conveys drainage flows from a large upstream area. Immediate replacement of the culvert is recommended to prevent any undesirable flooding and / or damage to and upstream of Boundary Drive,” explained Sasha Bird in her report to council. Staff was concerned that a sinkhole could be created if the repairs were not done, and inspection of the culvert showed collapse throughout the pipe.

In doing the repairs, the culvert will be upgraded to match best practices with better structure and entrance barriers.

Council approved the $55,000 repair which was not anticipated in this year’s budget. The project is to be tendered so may come in at a lower cost and is hoped to be completed in February of 2013.

“This is the kind of thing we’re hoping we can address with our planning and looking at where our fragile areas are so we’re not having to wait for them to break down like this because it is costly, but… we moved in quickly and this problem is being addressed,” Taylor commented.

Slag pile stabilization

The slag pile report ordered by council earlier in the year was received. Concerns for the stability of the slag, located on the edge of the Granby River across from Riverside Drive were raised by city staff and Pacific Abrasives (contractor using the slag) in the late spring. Cracks in the southeast portion of the slag pile were thought to be growing in size, and while the initial inspection of the pile indicated that danger of the rocks sliding into the river was not imminent, further data and decisions were necessary.

“There are quite a few tension cracks and fissures that we don’t know if they’ve been expanding or not,” explained chief administrative officer Doug Allin. “Some of the cracks are up to 30 or 40 feet deep. We want to go in and put some monuments on them to start to do an annual monitoring program to ensure this isn’t sluffing or sliding.”

From the monitoring data the city’s geotechnical engineers can determine more accurately whether an emergent issue is arising. The fire chief is developing an emergency plan in case the pile does slide or shift, and Allin recommends that the city divert Overton Creek away from the slag.

“Overton Creek flows across the road from the height of the mountain and flows underneath the slag pile,” said Allin. “We don’t know where it sees daylight, but the geotechnical engineer suggests that these big cracks have a high likelihood of being the result of the creek flowing underneath there.”

Allin said the diversion of the creek will need to be supported by a report from the engineer, and the monitoring which will give them ways to do the diversion without impacting the environment. The city will work with Pacific Abrasives to achieve their goals in stabilizing the slag.

There was no budget presented for the work as staff are in the planning phase. Expenditures will come out of the slag fund, and may be co-funded by Pacific Abrasives.

Past coverage of the slag damage:

Slag sinkholes cause for investigation


The bylaw completing the road closure for the changes in traffic flow around Roxul West Inc. passed its final reading at the meeting.

Watch the video for the full meeting from Les Johnson at GFTV!

Categories: GeneralPolitics