2019 Glacier National Park Avalanche Mitigations Announcement Federal Infrastructure Investment Program


Glacier National Park           

Glacier National Park’s steep, rugged mountains and warm, wet climate are typical of the Columbia Mountains Natural Region. The park, located in the interior “wet belt” of British Columbia, protects unique stands of old-growth cedar and hemlock, one of the world’s only inland temperate rainforests. The park is home to diverse plant and animal life, including giant cedar trees, mountain goats, and species at risk such as grizzly bears, whitebark pine, and little brown bats.

Rogers Pass National Historic Site, located in Glacier National Park, was designated for its role in the construction and development of the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway into a major national transportation route. True to its history, the area still plays an important role connecting Canada from east to west with both the railway and the Trans-Canada Highway passing through the park.

Previously announced project that will receive additional funding

Further information on this project is available in this backgrounder

Project name: Avalanche Mitigations – Trans-Canada Highway

Announced in 2015: $77 million

Estimated Additional Financing: $18 million

Estimated Total Cost: $95 million

Project description: Parks Canada will invest an additional $18 million to install an Avalanche Detection Network (ADN) and associated highway safety measures in Glacier National Park. The network is the first of its kind in Canada and the largest installation worldwide. Following a successful pilot project in Glacier National Park in 2017, planning for a permanent installation began in fall 2018. The system combines two detection systems: Radar for monitoring specific avalanche paths, and infrasound for large area monitoring. This technology will alert forecasters in real-time, when natural avalanches occur, and also provide certainty that planned avalanches have been successful when low-visibility prevents confirmation. The ADN will provide valuable information for avalanche forecasting and contribute to the efficiency of Glacier National Park’s avalanche control program.

As part of the previously announced funding, avalanche safety work that is now completed or currently underway includes:

·        Installation of ten Remote Avalanche Control Systems (RACS) which allow technicians to trigger explosives using a wireless device for controlled avalanche mitigation;

·        Installation of 2,200 metres of netting that holds snow in place where avalanches would traditionally start;

·        Addition of a westbound passing lane from the summit of Rogers Pass to the Illecillewaet Curve;

·        Rehabilitation of existing static defence systems – dams or berms to catch or deflect avalanche debris – as well as construction of additional earthen mounds to help prevent avalanches from reaching the highway;

·        Expanded vehicle holding areas for use during highway closures and avalanche control;

·        Structural repairs to snow sheds over the highway, along with the installation of new LED lighting;

·        Highway paving and turning lane improvements throughout Rogers Pass;

·        Maintenance of catchment basins that protect the highway from spring mud flow in the Beaver Valley; and

·        Ecological gains such as improved aquatic connectivity through Rogers Pass for fish like native bull trout by replacing aging highway culverts.

The total investments of approximately $95 million are improving avalanche safety and highway reliability through Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park for park visitors and through-traffic. These improvements also support Canada’s economy by helping to reduce winter closure times of the Trans-Canada Highway, thus maintaining the movement of goods and services across the Columbia Mountains. 

Parks Canada Avalanche Safety Program

Parks Canada is a recognized international leader in avalanche safety. Parks Canada’s trained professionals work 24 hours/day, 7 days/week throughout the winter performing avalanche control and road maintenance in Glacier National Park. Since 1961, Parks Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces, under Operation PALACI, have partnered to run the world’s largest mobile artillery avalanche control program in Glacier National Park.

Parks Canada’s avalanche forecasters and technicians closely monitor weather, snowfall and snow pack to assess avalanche hazards. By understanding the stability of the snowpack, Parks Canada Avalanche Forecasters are able to determine when avalanche control is required. The area highway and railway will then be temporarily closed while Parks Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces initiate avalanche control measures. The goal is to bring down small, more frequent avalanches to reduce the snow load and thus the risk of natural and/or large avalanches impacting the highway and railway. This greatly improves safety for visitors to Glacier National Park and for the travelling public, while reducing the length of closures required for avalanche control and clean-up.

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