There were more questions than answers as residents in a Kirschner Mountain subdivision gathered at a public forum Thursday night to hear an assessment of a potential landslide cascading onto their properties.
The city has already identified a slope between Loseth Road and Kloppenburg Court as placing an immediate landslide hazard on nearby homeowners.
But while why the slope in question has become a danger—rising groundwater table along with additional fill piled on to the original slope—has been identified by geotechnical engineers, who is responsible remains a mystery city officials are still trying to sort out.
James Kay, City of Kelowna development engineering manager, said to the best of the city’s knowledge, neither of the current owners of two properties living directly next to the slope are responsible for the slope degradation, but both currently face the potential of paying the more than $1 million to cover the slope restoration costs.
Both property owners, at 2045 Loseth Rd. and 2001 Kloppenburg Crt., have retained lawyers and kept in close contact with city officials with regards to taking civil action to protect their financial interests.
“The forensics of who did what will come out later, as we are still trying to figure out who did what, who knew what and who signed off on what,” Kay said.
“It is not just a case of one person being involved. There are several people involved.”
Residents voiced concerns about the professional certification of engineers who signed off on these geotechnical projects, and the blasting further up the hill on Kirschner Mountain where new home lots are being developed.
“The blasting going on up the hill has to have something to do with this. Sometimes it sounds like a bomb going off,” said one resident.
“If your house is shaking from it then it has to have some impact below the ground as well.”
Kay said at this point in the investigation, the dynamite blasting is not considered a factor in the slope weakening, but it was one explanation that didn’t initially raise consideration.
He said while council has told staff it is a priority to tighten up blasting bylaw restrictions, ultimately approval rests with the province and not at the municipal level.
“But blasting is an issue we hear loud and clear about and we are working to address that,” Kay said.
After the meeting, Kay said input from residents is helpful to city staff in trying to uncover responsibility for the landslide fears.
“We are here to listen and to help,” he said.
Kay said the immediate concern for the city remains to alleviate the landslide risk, determine who is responsible and seek to have those responsible cover the remediation costs.
“We have said we want to fix this problem in March and we are ready to go. We will go back to council on Monday and seek approval to proceed, and then ask for permission of the two affected property owners to access their land and do what the geotechnical experts have given us clear direction on what needs to be done,” Kay said.
“Our contractors and our crews are ready to go. The slope is susceptible to a higher risk with the groundwater at the level it is now so we are very concerned about that.”