B.C. UPDATE: Gas rationed to 30 litres/visit, travel restricted for 10 days, Merritt may reroute river

Coldwater River nearing village’s treatment infrastructure

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The British Columbia government is rationing gasoline and restricting travel on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, southwestern parts of the province and the Sunshine Coast after this week’s unprecedented storm severed highways and cut supply lines.

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Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said a limit of 30 litres of fuel per visit to a gas station is an important step to maintaining the supply as the province works to bring in more gas by truck and barge from Alberta, Washington state, Oregon and California.

He said the order would apply for 10 to 11 days and he trusts that people won’t be greedy while keeping critical services in mind as they focus on residents whose communities have been devastated by flooding.

He says police will not be enforcing the 30-litres-per-visit rule, but will be relying on residents to “do the right thing.”

Farnworth says if people follow the restrictions, B.C.’s gas supply will hold for the next 10 to 11 days.

He says gas stations are required to ensure their supplies last until Dec. 1 in southwestern B.C., the Sea To Sky region, Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

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Farnworth said non-essential travel has also been prohibited on sections of highways 99, 3 and 7 starting Friday and passage through restricted areas will be reserved for commercial transport of such goods as food, water and medical supplies.

“As roads are repaired and the backlog of essential traffic clears, restrictions on essential travel can and will be eased. We will be releasing the details on enforcement in short order,” he said.

“But my hope is that everyone understands the need for these restrictions and fully co-operates. In other words, if you don’t need to be travelling right now, don’t. Stay home. And if you can’t do that, carpool or take public transit or work from home.”

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Officials in Merritt are working with the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources on what the city called the “new course” of the Coldwater River.

The city inundated by floodwaters says the river is now much closer to Merritt’s wastewater treatment infrastructure, causing problems with its operation.

An update posted on Merritt’s Facebook page on Friday says the city and the ministry are starting to investigate whether rerouting the river to its original course would be possible, though no plans exist yet.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says affected farmers will be eligible for the province’s disaster relief, and she has been assured by her federal counterpart that there would also be support from that jurisdiction.

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Highways throughout the southern parts of the province saw major damage, and some, like the Coquihalla, will not be rebuilt for several months while limited access has been restored to others with single-lane traffic permitted.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Highway 3 from Hope to the southern interior of the province had opened for essential travel and Highway 99, which links up with Highway 97 north of Cache Creek, could be open by Sunday depending on whether crews can continue their work.

“I want to emphasize this will not be travel as we’d expect under normal conditions. Crews will be on site with heavy equipment to continue to repair the roads. And until that work is complete, the traffic is going to be slow on these routes.”

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