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Othello Tunnels set to open following severe flood damage

A full reopening will take place in 2025.

Two of the three Othello tunnels — a popular B.C. tourist attraction located in Coquihalla Canyon Park — are poised to reopen in mid-July, more than two years after they were damaged by severe flooding.

The park was shuttered in November 2021 after an atmospheric river brought heavy rain and wiped out more than 30 sites in the park, including the 110-year-old tunnels. The weather event affected bridge foundations and the stability of canyon slopes above and inside the tunnels.

"The first phase of restoration work to safely reopen the park is underway and will allow people to access the park from the parking lot to the end of the second tunnel," the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said in a press release.

The province says crews have nearly finished removing loose or unstable soil, rocks and vegetation along the canyon slopes and tunnels. Steel bars, meanwhile, have been grouted into place to help stabilize rocks. Crews will also add mesh to part of the ceiling and walls of the first tunnel while sprayed concrete will be applied wherever the rock is significantly deteriorated.

Asked why it’s taken this long to get to this point, Environment Minister George Heyman called it a “complicated project.”

“Not only did we want to make it safe, we wanted to make it safe in the future against some of the potential flood events that we have grown to expect with climate change,” he told reporters Thursday during a tour of the park. “It has to be carefully planned and engineered.”

The minister added it was very important to have part of the park open this year.

“It’s also important to British Columbians and the visitors who come literally from around the world to have a chance to look at these tunnels to see the beautiful river and just marvel at the engineering feat,” he said, noting he’s never visited the tunnels himself but “will be back this summer.”

The rest of the park is set to reopen in 2025.

The total cost of the restoration project is about $4.5 million and is largely funded through the federal disaster financial assistance program.