Work to fix a landslide threatening homes on McConnell Crescent that’s had two Terrace families on edge since 2019 has begun. Work started Jan. 24 with plans to finish the last week of April, according to project manager Chris Houston of the consulting engineering firm McElhanney.
It’s been a long time coming for families who have looked on in horror for years now as their backyards erode into the Kitsumkalum River below them.
Property owners began asking the city for help in 2021 to stabilize the slide area. It first began eroding property in 2017.
In 2019 another landslide took out the backyard of 5414 McConnell where Kashmir and Darshan More lived. Amanda and David Horvath, who still live at 5412, lost their backyard fence to the slide in 2021.
Families only began to see some light at the end of the tunnel last year when the province gave the city nearly $2.5 million to fix the landslide.
McElhanney is overseeing the work, and the city also awarded contracts to Progressive Ventures Construction, for the on-site labour, and to Bear Creek Construction to bring in materials.
Amanda Horvath said she and her husband are quite relieved following a recent meeting with McElhanney, Progressive Ventures and City of Terrace public works staff.
“Chris Houston explained things really quite well. The people from Progressive Ventures were really professional and knowledgeable.They understood that this is big for us, even though it’s just a project for them.”
That said, families feel they should have been listened to earlier. It’s cost them money and their peace of mind.
While any damage to the Horvath’s septic field during construction will be covered, the Mores still have to pay to replace their septic field that was taken out by the landslide.
“If the city had taken us seriously when we first started talking to them or when the big chunk fell off, before the Mores’ system was affected, then the Mores wouldn’t have to replace their whole septic system,” Amanda said.
“It’s on them now to do it because the city wouldn’t help us.”
Houston explained that Emergency Measures B.C. decided since the Mores’ septic field was damaged during the slide event, it’s not part of this contract to fix.
As work begins, wet weather isn’t helping, and contractors are taking precautions to keep workers safe.
“We were really hoping for it to be frozen, that’s why we picked doing this at this point in time. Fingers crossed based on the weather forecast it does freeze up again,” said Houston.
“We’re always going to have people on site while people are working, looking at the slope making sure that we don’t see signs of stress or potential failures up there and we are monitoring this.”
The work plan is to build up from the bottom of the slope, fill it up with rock to a 90 metre elevation and then placing rock from the top of the slide to build the rest of the slope up.
“The majority of the construction is going to be coming from down below which keeps a lot of the trucks off of the road up top and out of the subdivision,” said Houston.
Both the Mores and the Horvaths have filed lawsuits claiming negligence by the city in allowing work to take place on the properties, too close to the slope.
Also named as a defendant is a local developer now called Blanken Holdings, that owned the land where the erosion started, having subdivided the parcel of land where the homes were built and then put up for sale.
As of 2021, the Kitsumkalum River had moved about one kilometre over the course of 80 years and the city estimated erosion causing landslides would continue due to climate change.
Vancouver lawyer Jeff Scouten, who is acting for the families, argued the landslide was ‘lying in plain sight’.
“Maybe 10 years ago or so, it sort of broke off from its original existing channel and went over to the tow of the slope. So it started eroding at the bottom of the slope there.”
McElhanney also developed a bigger plan for managing floods along the Kitsumkalum River within city limits.
“We looked at a few higher risk sites. We picked a few of the higher risk ones and we did a remediation design or a concept designs for each of them,” said Houston.
“Whether or not any of them need to be done right away or not that just completely depends on the weather and what happens. There’s a potential to go in there and be a little bit more proactive and complete some of these things but that will be up to whether or not people can get funding for it.”
Permits to start work on the McConnell landslide were fast tracked and Emergency Management B.C. was able to get money for the work because it’s an emergency, that could affect municipal infrastructure.
“You wouldn’t really just go in there and do this work without something like this happening,” said Houston.
“The city can’t afford anything like that.”
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