Kelowna News

Immediate action needed to prevent 'catastrophic' landslide in Kelowna

Tension cracks behind a Black Mountain Irrigation District pump house is triggering calls for immediate action.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/City of Kelowna

KELOWNA - A potential landslide due to high groundwater could cost a couple of property owners more than $1 million and risks cutting off 90 homes, and breaking water and sewer lines in the Black Mountain area of Kelowna.

City Council will be asked Monday, Feb. 25, to issue orders to two property owners on Losethe Road and Koppenburg Court, off Highway 33, to immediately fix the problem.

“As the tension cracks are evident above the slope within Loseth Road, it is it important to note that this section of Loseth is the only public access to approximately 90 homes up Kirschner Mountain and contains utility infrastructure under the surface,” a report written by city risk manager Lance Kayfish states. “The BMID (Black Mountain Irrigation District) Booster Station supplies the reservoir. Of course, any failure effecting a home or structure could result in injury or death of the occupants. For these reason staff assess that a failure in this area could have catastrophic consequences.”

Cracks were found last spring in the city-owned boulevard fronting 2045 Loseth Road as well as behind Black Mountain’s pump station.

A geotechnical study was conducted and a report on Jan. 24 of this year concluded the entire slope is “marginally stable under current conditions and can be destabilized by even a modest rise in groundwater pressures, which likely occurs each spring.”

A City of Kelowna press release stated that "the study determined the probability of a landslide occurring is very high. Lives and properties at the bottom of the slope are at risk if there is a landslide, and the risk of a slide increases with runoff and groundwater pressure. A Black Mountain Irrigation District pump station at the top of the slope is also at risk, including the water, gas and electric services connected to the pump station."

A slide could damage Kloppenburg Road, which provides the only public access to 90 homes on Kirschner Mountain.

Since the problem is on private land, it’s the owner’s responsibility to fix it, Kayfish wrote, estimating it could cost $750,000 to $1.2 million.

He wants council to approve a Remedial Action Order to get the work done right away. If it turns out that the land owners are not responsible for the problem, they can try to recover their costs through “civil litigation or other means,” but the work needs to be done first.

If the property owners refuse, council will be asked to get the work done and recover the costs later.

“The history of what led to this situation is complicated, and determining responsibility for the instability will follow, but the immediate concern is to ensure the safety and protection of the residents and infrastructure,” said City of Kelowna Development Engineering manager James Kay in the press release.

The stability of the slope is being monitored and emergency plans are being prepared in case an evacuation is needed.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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