Special to OsoyoosToday
A new crack has put off the re-opening date of Hwy. 97 for several days at least.
“A new and significant crack was discovered in the slope this morning . . . after scaling crews arrived,” said Mike Lorimer, executive director of highway operations for the Southern Interior, on Wednesday.
Crews had to be pulled off the site due to safety concerns.
The discovery spoiled hopes of reopening the highway between Summerland and Peachland yesterday.
The crack is about 10 or 15 feet above the current slide and extends 50 metres to the north and 50 metres to the south.
Geotechnical engineers began assessing the crack via helicopter.
“We’re bringing in some detailed survey equipment so we can do precise monitoring to track the movement,” said Mr. Lorimer.
Crews will continue monitoring the crack until it is safe for work to resume.
“Until we stabilize that upper part of the failure, it’s too unstable to have crews working below it,” said Mr. Lorimer.
It was too early on Wednesday to give a timeline on possible repairs.
“If I had the crystal ball to do so I’d love to, but at this point, it’s going to be based on the assessment,” he said.
“We’re at least looking at a few days at this point. We’ll do everything we can to get that going as soon as possible. We’re not going to put people in a risky situation.”
Mr. Lorimer noted crews are working in dangerous and harsh conditions.
“There’s the uncertainty of the moving terrain,” he said. “With the winds and the temperatures we’re seeing, it’s incredibly challenging. It’s pretty safe to say the guys and girls out there are having a pretty tough go of it.”
The 201 Forest Service Road remains the recommended detour between Kelowna and Penticton, although Lorimer acknowledged it is not ideal.
The closure has promoted some people to question why there is not a viable secondary highway through the Okanagan.
Mr. Lorimer said the current focus is on improving existing highways.
“At this point, a secondary Okanagan highway is not in the cards,” he said.
Questions have also been raised about the possibility of a water taxi, which was used in the fall of 2008 when the highway was closed because of a slide.
Mr. Lorimer said that is not being considered as an option right now.
“There’s a reason there’s not a lot of boats on the lake right now,” he said, referring to the cold temperatures and winds.