There’s some light at the end of the tunnel for families living on McConnell Crescent in Terrace and watching their backyards slowly erode into the Kitsumkalum River below them.
The province awarded nearly $2.5 million for the city to fix the landslide and protect its infrastructure. Since the grant came through the city contracted McElhanney to plan the work but has yet to commit to a start date.
A spokesperson for the province told The Terrace Standard this month the city is now aiming for a February or March 2023 start date with city spokesperson Tyler Clarke saying the work hinges on permit approvals and contractor availability.
B.C. Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth said in a Sept. 29 interview that he expected the work to start this fall, after funding was secured through Emergency Management BC (EMBC).
“They’ve been on it, doing the work that needed to be done to get to the point where we are now which is to be able to put in place a solution,” he said.
“I’m just very pleased that we’ve been able to do it.”
McConnell Crescent residents Amanda and David Horvath were at first relieved upon hearing the news, but with no start to the work in sight they see no end to what has been a five-year ordeal.
Amanda Horvath said she and her family are “on pins and needles” as they wait for the work to start, adding that there’s no way of knowing how much the landslide might progress over the winter.
The Horvaths’ neighbours, Kashmir and Darshan More, are no able to longer live in their house since the landslide exposed their septic pipes and the Horvaths fear they will be next.
Judging by the growing length of septic pipe jutting out from behind her neighbours’ home, toward the river and through the cliff of the landslide, Amanda worries there will be more to fix by the time the work starts.
Extra costs might not all be covered by the grant and the city hasn’t applied for money to cover that potential cost over-run, Amanda added.
EMBC northwest manager Crissy Bennett had also promised a town hall meeting with neighbourhood residents but the families say that never materialized.
Instead of a town hall, the city held a meeting Nov. 2 with four affected property owners to update them on the progress of the project, promising an eventual “more fulsome” public timeline.
It all started for the Horvaths 10 years ago when the couple thought they had bought their Terrace dream home at 5412 McConnell Crescent, unaware of the unstable ground on which the house was built.
The land along the river bank — where the erosion that caused the landslide started — doesn’t belong to the affected home owners, so the Horvaths said they couldn’t do anything about it.
The first landslide was in 2017, to the south of 5416 and 5418 McConnell, according to the city. In 2019 another landslide took out the backyard of the Mores’ home, its steep cliff now feet away from their home.
The Horvaths said they lost their backyard fence to the slide in 2021.
Last February, property owners asked for urgent financial help from the city. As of last year, the river had moved about one kilometre over the course of 80 years and the city estimated erosion causing landslides would continue.
The Horvaths pleaded their case again to city council at an Aug. 24 meeting following a presentation by McElhanney of options for fixing the McConnell landslide.
Farnworth said there are slide issues in many parts of the province that aren’t always an easy fix. In this case EMBC was able to work with the city to solve the problem.
“We live in a mountainous province and these kinds of things come up on a regular basis. And every one is different. Some are resolvable, others are not resolvable.
“We’re working with the City of Terrace and that means understanding what is the nature of the problem, to make sure that we are actually able to fix the problem and deal with it.”
The Horvaths said they are grateful to the province for stepping up, and to Opposition BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross for advocating on their behalf.
But they remain frustrated with what they see as the city’s slow response. They wish the city had acted when they first learned of the erosion, and believe the landslide could have been stopped before it started.
Instead the city dragged its feet until the story made headlines, Amanda argued. The couple are now anxious to see results so they can sleep peacefully at night.
“It’s been awful and this is a light at the end of the tunnel but there aren’t any small achievable goals that we can see right now,” Amanda Horvath said, adding that their young son is also affected.
“They need to put boots to the ground fast,” David Horvath said.
“The longer the wait the more we lose. There is a light at the end of the tunnel but it’s still a long way to go. If it goes to next September we’re looking at a year away. A year of losing more, and more and more.”
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