News Updates from Glacier Creek Road

Rainbow's End Ranch

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Mon - July 23, 2007

Entries from July 23rd to August 2nd based on conversations with Eloise Charet

Eloise arrived with Henry Hutter, her good buddy on the line, to continue her role as a peacemaker in the blockage at 12k up the Glacier Creek Road. Also on site were Tom Prior, Mick & Gabriela (Storm) Grabowsky, owners of Rainbow's End Ranch, and Beau, Mick's son.

Bruce Fraser, Operations Manager from the 4 mile MoF (B.C. Ministry of Forests) office near Nelson and Ken, in charge of roading for MoF, arrived. Bruce said they had shown MoE (B.C. Ministry of Environment) photos taken of the slide on Glacier Creek Road and had written to them. This was in response to Bruce's agreement with Mick and Storm from the previous week that MoE would be consulted before any road repairs were undertaken by MoF contractors. Bruce said that MoE had given the OK to proceed on the road work and that they were too busy to come out to take a look.

Tom Prior repeatedly asked Bruce and Ken about who Axor Corporation was in touch with at MoF about preliminary road work that would be done to support their hydro project further up Glacier Creek Road. There may be collusion happening between Axor and MoF on road work, even though the Glacier/Howser hydroelectric project has not been approved.

Later that same day, Tom Prior drove to Argenta and phoned MoE to tell them that a logging crew had dumped the contents of a Porta Potty along the side of Duncan Road.

Tues - July 24th

It was a quiet day on the blockage. Gregor Craigie from the CBC Nelson office came up and spent some time talking with people.

Wed - July 25th

The same people as Monday were on Glacier Creek Road at the 12 km location when MoF showed up in the morning with some muscle. They brought in a big excavator and parked it just down the road and out of sight of the road blockage. The excavator and a pickup truck with MoF staff stayed there all day in the hot sun.

Andy Shadrack, local RDCK representative from Kaslo, arrived in tweed coat and cowboy hat later in the morning. Accompanying him was Kim, who is head of a local mountaineering club and very involved in the campaign to stop the 5000 bed Jumbo Resort at the head of Glacier Creek. Andy and Kim were acting as negotiators for MoF and had their expenses paid to come up to the blockage at Glacier Creek Road. They walked back and forth in the heat between the MoF crew and the machinery out of sight down the road and the blockage at 12km, carrying messages.

Andy brought a sealed letter from Chris Cook, the lawyer in Skogstad's legal firm in Nelson who is representing Mick and Storm in their bid to obtain grazing rights for their horses. The letter said that if Mick and Storm persist in blocking the road it may jeopardize a permit for their horses. Andy and Kim asked that everyone clear off the road, and Kim stated that the effort to protect Jumbo was well in hand and that Axor [the company developing hydroeclectric on Glacier and Howser Creeks] had nothing to do with the Jumbo situation.

Mick took Andy off for a walk and talked with him for over an hour, explaining what was really going on with Axor. Tom Prior took Kim off as well and explained to him how the Axor hydro development and the Jumbo Resort were very much connected. Andy and Kim left after having heard the other side of the story from what MoF had told them.

Thurs - July 26th

It was a quiet day at the 12km site. Some tourists came up and signed the petition opposing the Glacier/Howser hydro project. They were allowed through the blockage since they were walking and bicycling.

Fri - July 27th

Bruce Fraser from MoF arrived with Mike from MoE. They avoided talking to people at the blockage and walked up Glacier Creek Road through Rainbow's End Ranch to check severe problems with the road. There is a big question about right of way through the ranch. The original road washed away as Glacier Creek undercut it and the current road bed is over Mick's private land. Down below the ranch the problem is different; the road is cut into an unstable sandy bank in a very narrow gorge and large rocks keep coming down onto the roadbed.

Chris Cook from Skogstad's office then arrived. He and Mick started to talk stategy within earshot of MoF and MoE staff. Both Bruce from MoF and Eloise suggested that Chris and Mick go off somewhere a little more private to have their conversation.

Eloise offered breakfast to the MoF and MoE staff (some nice oatmeal), but they declined. Maybe the weather was too hot, or maybe that would pulled them out of their roles too much. She always tries for the person to person connection in the hope of minimizing tension and emphasizing everyone's common humanity. Eloise left in the late afternoon to return to New Denver.

Mon - July 30th

Henry Hutter picked Eloise up in New Denver early in the morning and guess who was at the local gas station but Kerry, one of Eloise's companions from the 1998 Cross Canada Waterwalk. When Eloise and Henry arrived at the Glacier Creek blockage, Tom Prior was still there. Although MoF was expected, no one showed and it was a quiet day.

Tues - July 31st

Another quiet day.

Wed - August 1st

Dave, the person under contract to MoF for roadwork, arrived. He had heard the blockade was down and was there to check out the situation. He called MoF to tell them that the road was still blocked and then stayed to talk with Mick and Storm about the road situation.

Thurs - August 2nd

Bruce Fraser from MoF arrived with a multiple page document concerning the issues under discussion. Among other items, the document addressed the grazing permit application, road construction on Glacier Creek Road, and right of way repair across Rainbow's End Ranch during the time window when Bull Trout would be least affected by debris and sediment entering the creek. Bruce said he understood how Mick and Storm felt about the Glacier/Howser hydro project and had no problem with an information booth being set up. He said he wanted to focus on mediation rather than confrontation and would like to avoid obtaining an injunction.

By the end of the day on Thursday a gentleman's agreement had been reached between MoF (as represented by Bruce Fraser, Operations Manager of the Four Mile Forestry Office near Nelson) and Mick and Storm (Gabriela) Grabowsky concerning outstanding issues, with a handshake being made on the agreement. The question remaining is when will an ammended and signed document from MoF be presented to Mick and Storm. Until matters are put in writing, it's all just talk. But at least Bruce Fraser appeared attentive and showed willingness to listen to Mick & Storm's concerns, even including their greivances about the reckless use of ATV's and motorcycles which have been harassing their horses. Some of these same riders, especially kids, play daredevil games with logging trucks. ATV's have also torn up alpine areas with their big tires.

Bruce Fraser also was finally able to grasp the difference between 'string horses', which walk from grazing site to grazing site, and horses which are transported. Bruce said that there is a reservoir near Revelstoke where horses are currently allowed to graze during low water, but in that case the horses are transported in. A similar arrangement could be made to give Mick & Storm grazing rights for a string of horses not requiring transportation.

Eloise left late Thursday afternoon to return to New Denver. Two of her days there had been clear of smoke from the nearby Hamil Creek fire. The other days had been very smoky with ash falling. She returned to New Denver to find that power had been out in the village for two days due to transmission lines burning near Arrow Creek. On top of that, the large Springer Creek fire at the south end of Slocan Lake had become very aggressive and forced evacuation of 30 homes and put another 60 on alert. Eloise noted that all these fires served to create a context or background energy for the blockade and negotiations on Glacier Creek Road.

August 23rd - August 26th   (updated August 31st and September 10th)

based on conversations with Mick Grabowsky, with Barry from New Denver (GPS readings), and email exchanges with the geoscientist who took a preliminary look at the 15K Glacier Creek Road slide

Since August 2, 2007 Mick and Gabriela Grabowsky have waited for a written legal document from Ministry of Forests setting down the verbal 'gentleman's agreement' of August 2, 2007 made between them and Bruce Fraser, MoF's Kootenay Lake Forest District Operations Manager. This promised document never arrived. Instead, on August 23rd, MoF contractors showed up to work on a large slide area on the upstream side of Grabowsky's private property which has blocked Glacier Creek Road. Independent GPS readings were taken on August 28th by Barry, who arrived from New Denver with Craig Pettitt of the Valhalla Wilderness Society to examine the slide zone. Barry has worked several winters surveying seismic lines in the Alberta oil patch and is skilled at taking GPS readings and producing maps. According to his calculations, the slide is approximately 175 ft. wide at the bottom and involves an area from elevation 2428 ft. at Glacier Creek Road to elevation 2669 ft. up the steep hillside. The hillside above the road has a slope of 110% from slide toe (bottom) to the mid-point and 90% slope from mid-point to top of the slide. The face of the slide runs 325 ft. up the hillside, with the potential to slide another 200 ft. up to rock bluffs above. This unstable hillside consists of topsoil on top of broken schist rock. It began sliding as a result of cut-banks made to create the forestry road, and now poses a genuine risk of producing a massive debris torrent during rainy season that could obliterate the forestry road and dam Glacier Creek. In this location the forestry road sits at the edge of the Glacier Creek riparian zone, lying about 70 feet from the creek itself and about 7 feet above nominal water level. MoF refuses to take responsibility for creating the slide situation with installation of their forestry road. Because MoF has not agreed to assume liability for the slide, the Grabowskys could be found responsible for future slide mitigation costs and could be held liable in case of injury and damage to road users since the slide is on their private property.

On August 23rd MoF contractors performed a quick road repair in the slide zone which involved clearing debris down to the original road bed and then raising the road bed three feet with sandy soil so that a small berm was created to catch sliding debris. Then on August 24th the lower half of the slide area was clearcut, including even small saplings, contrary to the understanding the Grabowskys thought they had with MoF. After this work was completed, Bruce Faser, in an interview for the August 29, 2007 edition of the Valley Voice newspaper, stated: "The risk with respect to that hillside has been mitigated and we are prepared to open the road again."

Because of ill-considered actions taken by MoF and its contractors on Grabowskys private property; because of the danger that the slide area stills poses to road-users and the uncertainty about who is legally liable, and because the promised written document detailing the August 2, 2007 'gentleman's agreement' between MoF and the Grabowskys was never delivered, a decision has been made by the Grabowskys to once again block Glacier Creek Road to all motor vehicle traffic. Please read Gabriela Grabowsky's letter which follows for more details about the current situation at Glacier Creek Road. Please note that two sentences of her letter have been contested by the person alluded to and that a correction has been noted posted immediately below her letter.

Letter from Gabriela Grabowsky describing events occuring on their property in late August 2007

"In early August 2007 Mick and Gabriela Grabowsky were assured in front of witnesses that a letter from the Ministry of Forests would be forthcoming to absolve them of liability in case of an accident resulting from a recent landslide on their property, as soon as the lawyers had composed it. The landslide is largely the result of an overly steep cut-bank. Grabowskys had Bruce Fraser's 'gentlemen's agreement'. He is Kootenay Lake Forest District Operations Manager. He and his minion Ken Haynes assured one and all it was a simple matter. No big deal. Grabowskys waited, but no letter came. Grabowsky's hillside is exceedingly steep and fractured. It is moving visibly and they had been informed by Forestry's engineer that it may take 40 minutes or 40 years, but the mountain will come down. Much fill was taken out to build the road. Vast sections are now giving way. Stumps hurtle from on high. Tons of soil and debris hang tenuously. Fragmented land is shifting. Grabowskys sought a second opinion for what to do. Their consultant could not arrive until Aug 25.

On Aug 21 they received a letter from Kootenay Lake District Manger Garry Beaudry saying that if an accident took place 'a determination of liability would be addressed at the time'. Bruce Fraser's previous letter had said the Ministry was looking into the legal liability question 'and the process to indemnify you, if necessary'. Grabowskys consider it so. The risk to their property from potential lawsuits is not one they wish to entertain. If the Ministry of Forests chooses to open the road without doing further remedial work on this landslide, then they should shoulder the risk. Users are not aware of this potential danger. If the risk is minimal then surely a letter absolving Grabowskys of liability in case of mishap because of the slide is no big deal. Otherwise, the road should remain closed until further safety concerns are addressed.

At an August 22 meeting with Bruce Fraser it was determined that no work would proceed on the slide until the independent engineer had been to see it Aug 25. Grabowskys were given until Aug 27 to determine the best plan. That was the deal.

On August 23 the worker informed Grabowskys that they had instructions to place a small berm at the toe of the slide. They had been given no engineer's report and this was contrary to Grabowskys arrangement with Bruce Fraser, not to mention of questionable value. Most of the danger is posed from higher up. After being given 3 hours to make calls and decide what to do, Grabowskys decided to accommodate the workers and allow the berm.

On August 24 Mick had gone to town when Gabriela was approached to cut the trees. She informed the contractor that two names were on the land title and as a separated woman she could only speak for herself. She informed the man that an engineer was due the following day. "No", was her answer, "wait until the other owner is home". The man went to confer and when he returned assured her that all small trees would be left - only dangerous trees felled. He lied and intimidated her with future costs if things did not go as planned. He took her half-hearted coerced acquiescence as a go-ahead and proceeded to have the entire section clear-cut. There was no permission given for what our land endured. We both hold trees as sacred. Here even saplings were destroyed. The forest was crunched up and taken away as Gabriela wept.

The independent engineer who arrived August 25 said that this clear-cut made things worse. There is now nothing to slow debris from above.   [note:  these previous two sentences have been disclaimed by the individual referred to, who is qualified as a Professional Geoscientist and not as a Professional Engineer. See his response at the end of Gabriela's letter]

He stated that this was a dangerous slide and gave some indications of how to solve some of the problems presented. This would be costly since no machines can be used up high to divert the water. It would need doing by hand. This land is hanging by threads, an accident waiting to happen - essentially unusable because the steep cut-banks are making it fall down.

Any public road should be closed until user safety can be assured. This hillside is very unstable. A band-aid sand pile and a clear-cut which exacerbates the problem are not good enough solutions. This cannot be ignored, allowing access as usual. As far as Grabowskys are concerned, no adequate measure to ensure the safety of travelers have been taken. Their land was clear-cut without permission and deals with the Ministry of Forest are empty air.

We ask hikers forbearance until this is resolved. Sorry, the road is shut."

September 10, 2007 correction to Gabriela's letter - posted as an unedited quote from a letter

1)   "Gabriela and Mick Grabowsky are aware that I am a Professional Geoscientist, registered with APEGBC and not a Professional Engineer, as alluded to in the News Updates. They also have my business card.
2)   Contrary to the 'News Updates from Glacier Creek Road', (letter from Gabriela Grabowsky), on August 25, during my field visit, I did not state that, 'this clear-cut made things worse', and that 'there is now nothing to slow debris from above'. I did, however, state that removal of danger trees is generally a good idea.
3)   In terms of stability, I mentioned that it is important to investigate the slope above the head scarp to determine whether interception, diversion and concentration of water are contributing factors, as is often the case. Such an investigation would involve several days of field and office work.
4)    I also mentioned, if it was determined that water was an issue, one solution might be to excavate a deep ditch suitably lined and filled, to intercept the water and divert it away from the head scarp and onto a safe slope segment.
5)   I stated that the road berm (elevated road tread) may not have a significant effect, in terms of loading the toe of the slide."

15k slide photos

Tues - August 28th - the following four entries based on phone conversation with Eloise Charet

Dave, the MoF road contractor, came by. Gabriela was very angry with him for removing tress. Dave was feeling depressed and caught in the middle between the Ministry of Forests and the Grabowskys and their supporters. While Dave was still there, Craig Pettitt, a professional forester and slide specialist associated with the Valhalla Wildnerness Society arrived, along with Barry from New Denver, to look over the 15K slide and take accurate GPS readings.

Wed - August 29th

Eloise Charet was alone at the Glacier Creek Road blockage when two young men in a pickup truck from Axor showed up, wanting to drive up the road. They were very angry at being denied passage and parked the nose of their vehicle right at the roadblock. The Axor employees soon left and returned later with metal detectors to look for the pins marking Rainbows End Ranch property. They were more polite when they returned and Eloise was able to talk with them because they were calmer Eloise notes that they used the same language phrasing as MoF in referring to the importance of leaving the road open for tourism purposes, without mentioning pending development plans for hydroelectric exploitation of Glacier Creek. She is positive that MoF and Axor are working hand-in-hand on the Glacier/Howser hydro development and that it all ties in with the proposed 5000 bed Jumbo development above the headwaters of Glacier Creek. The Axor employees then walked up past the slide area before leaving.

Thurs - August 30th

Eloise and Gabriela heard a car door slam and walked down to find a single RCMP officer had arrived. He had driven from Kaslo to investigate the road being blocked to tourist motor vehicle traffic. Mick had already showed him the slide area and explained reasons for the blockage. The RCMP officer was very relaxed and polite and acted respectfully. If turned out he was the acting Sergeant of the Kaslo detachment and had come up to find out for himself about the situation on the road. Before leaving he stated that as long as the Grabowskys and their supporters were still trying to deal with MoF, the RCMP wouldn't put any pressure on. Eloise speculates that Axor may have filed a complaint after being denied motor vehicle access the previous day.

Fri - August 31st

Lots of tourists arrived due to the Labour Day weekend. Eloise notes that most tourists end up signing the petition opposing the Glacier/Howser hydroelectric project after being informed about what will happen to the area should the project go ahead. One family group of local Meadow Creek residents, a mother on an ATV with a young child, plus older kids on motorbikes, came respectfully and slowly up the road to the blockage site. They wanted to see what was going on and were shown the slide area at 15K. At first they questioned the blockade but became supportive once they saw the situation first hand and heard the Grabowsky's point of view.

Sat - Sept. 15th

Eloise and Gabriela stopped three local men on ATVs who wanted to get through the blockade at 13k on Glacier Creek Rd. Only one man spoke, and he was quite belligerent. As they turned around and left, he commented that maybe they should block the Jumbo hikers who were expected the next day.

Sun - Sept. 16th - Jumbo Wild Day

(based on conversations with Eloise Charet and a person present at Hamil Creek)

Initially Mick and Gabriela Grabowsky had strong reservations about opening Glacier Creek Road to all the West Kootenay Jumbo Wild supporters in vehicles expected to pass through on their way to a 2 pm meeting on top of Jumbo Pass with supporters coming in from the East Kootenay side. Because the event was so widely advertised even before permission to cross their property had been obtained, it proved difficult for the Grabowskys to refuse. They decided to cooperate with the Jumbo Wild organizers, subject to certain conditions. At 9 am people would be asked to gather together as a group below the slide area at 15k so they could be escorted through, with observers keeping watch on the slide. Everyone would be notified that they would have to proceed at their own risk, and signs to that effect would be posted. Also, the road would be open to everyone on September 16th, not just to Jumbo Wild supporters, and the local community would be invited to come up.

Preparations were made at Rainbows End Ranch. Notices went out to several communities about the conditions of travel, decorative stone inukshucks were built along the road, a large information table was set up and preparations were made for participants who might want to camp overnight.

People were expected by 9 am on Sunday, but by 10:30 not a single person had arrived. Eloise began to wonder whether a counter-blockade to stop the Jumbo hikers had been set up. She and Henry drove down Glacier Creek Rd. and found approximately fifty local people, including family groups, blocking the road with pickup trucks and ATVs where it joined into Duncan Road. The women and men they talked to over the next 20 minutes were frosty and gruff, but not openly hostile or threatening. Eloise said good on them for getting a blockade together to express their feelings - she said they had as much right to block the road as anyone else, and suggested they hold a public meeting, which she would be willing to attend. The atmosphere remained tense with lots of latent anger underneath, but the public setting with families present helped to keep things peaceful. Eloise and Henry then drove back to Rainbows End Ranch, both feeling rather shaken by the intensity of the situation. Eloise felt the some of the local residents she had just met with (especially the ATVers) were angry over bad press they had recently received. Also, many were anxious about slowdowns in the lumber industry which they depended on, and wanted to see the Axor Corporation go ahead with the Glacier/Howser hydro project so they could get some much needed jobs. The locals had decided to get together and deny Jumbo Wild supporters access to Glacier Creek Rd., just as they had been blocked for the past two months at Rainbows End Ranch.

At 8:30 am that same morning, Rowena from Argenta, one of the main Jumbo Wild activists, had driven up Duncan Road ahead of the expected influx of Jumbo arrivals. She slowly drove past the counter-blockade at the junction with Glacier Creek Road and then turned around and came back, without making eye contact with anyone. Then she drove south to the Hamil Creek bridge on Duncan Road and began stopping people there in order to avoid a confrontation between Jumbo Wild supporters and local residents at the counter-blockade. Soon over 100 people were gathered at Hamil Creek, where a succession of speakers talked about the situation that day and about the Jumbo project. Someone suggested that everybody "bare for the bear" as a way of showing support for keeping the Jumbo pass wild and a suitable home for grizzly bears rather than for thousands of rich skiers. People liked the idea and soon 100 bare-naked people (many with their hats still on) were following a long-standing Kootenay protest tradition as they blocked Duncan Road in the buff. Within a few minutes the bracing mountain air made itself felt and people began to layer up again. Afterwards many people went off on various area hikes suggested by Jumbo organizers who lived in the area. In the meantime, 140 people from the East Kootenays successfully made they way up to Jumbo Pass, no doubt wondering where everybody from the west side had gotten to.

At one point in time there were three blockades on the road to Jumbo pass from the west - the 100+ Jumbo Wild supporters at Hamil Creek on Duncan Road, the 50 local residents at the junction with Glacier Creek Rd., and the long-standing, but open-for-the-day, blockade at Rainbow's End Ranch, 14k up Glacier Creek Road. The people at the local counter-blockade were left wondering why no one was coming up the road, and the reluctant hosts waiting for Jumbo hikers up at Rainbows End Ranch were asking themselves the same question.

Sun - Sept. 23rd

(based on conversation with a person returning from a multi-day visit to Rainbows End Ranch)

Neil Murphy and his son Shawn of Nelson, BC hand delivered a letter from Purcell Green Power to Gabriela and Mick Grabowsky. Purcell Green Power is an Axor Corporation subsidary created for hydroelectric development of Glacier and Howser creeks. The Murphys, who claimed to be only messengers on this occassion, were the original proponents of the Glacier Creek hydro project and were later bought out by the Axor Corporation. They still have a substantial stake in future profits from the Glacier/Howser hydro project as part of take-over.

Purcell Green Power letter of September 21, 2007

Copies of the Purcell Green Power letter, with a green border added along with a line at the bottom saying "LETTER TO THE RAINBOW'S END RANCH FROM PURCELL GREEN POWER INC.", have been put in plastic covers and posted around the Meadow Creek area. Considering the content and wording of the letter, its public posting by Purcell Green Power (Axor Corporation) may increase existing tensions between the Grabowskys and some local residents around blockade of Glacier Creek Road since April 2007. The letter may be a first step by Purcell Green Power towards obtaining a court injunction to have the blockade removed.

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Want to find out more or provide help?

Glacier Creek/Howser Creek hydroelectric proposal - a PDF printable handout & petition opposing this far from green project

Rainbow's End Ranch - background information on friction between Mick and Gabriela (Storm) Grabowsky and the Ministry of Forests, Axor corporation, and ATV users and motorbikers

Rainbow's End Ranch legal defense fund - how you can help defend Mick & Storm's ranch on Glacier Creek so they have the freedom to continue 25 years of development of their string of mountain mustangs using resevoir and backcountry grazing