Amanda and David Horvath thought they had found their ‘dream home’ after buying a house at 5412 McConnell Crescent in Terrace, northwest B.C. 10 years ago, but that dream is now a waking nightmare threatening to wash away their livelihoods.
“It’s a beautiful property, it’s a great neighbourhood and it was great for five years or so,” Amanda told Black Press Media.
“Then one day the whole house shook and there was a huge explosion sound and we went out there and the neighbours had lost half of their yard. In minutes it was gone.”
The Horvaths and their neighbours, Kashmir and Darshan More, have since looked on helplessly as their property continues to slide down into the shifting Kitsumkalum River behind them.
It started with a 2017 landslide to the south of 5416 and 5418 McConnell, according to the city. In 2019 another landslide took out the backyard of 5414 McConnell where the Mores lived. The Horvaths said they lost their backyard fence to the slide in 2021.
Last February, property owners asked for urgent help from the city to find relief money.
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 due to climate change.
The Mores moved out this summer as the cliff edged within feet of their home, sewage pipes exposed to the elements. The Horvaths fear they will be next but have nowhere to go.
“We don’t have an extra house… We’re looking at RVs so we can live in our friend’s driveway because we have nowhere to go and yet we’re still paying our mortgage and our property taxes,” Amanda said, adding their home insurance was revoked.
The Horvaths can’t sleep well, for fear of something happening, and they keep a fire extinguisher in the bedroom.
“At night we can hear the trees falling. Every time we hear the rain we know it’s eating away at the slope. We’re on eggshells,” Amanda said, adding the city declined a request to buy them out. “The Mores have been through hell, too.”
MLA for Skeena Ellis Ross and BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon have both advocated for the families, with Falcon telling Black Press that the province needs to “step up.”
The Horvaths said they sent briefing notes to B.C. Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth, adding that smaller scale disasters like theirs might fall through the cracks as the province rebuilds after last year’s flooding.
“It’s not the story that pulls some people heartstrings because so many people lost so much during the floods,” Amanda said.
Farnworth was unavailable for an interview in August and is expected to visit Terrace sometime in the fall.
Amanda added there’s nothing stopping the erosion from continuing its path of destruction if left unattended by the city.
“We’re not a priority, obviously, but eventually it’s going to go across the road and then people are going to be saying ‘why aren’t you doing something about this?’ But we’ll have already lost everything.
“We’re the first but we’re not going to be the last.”
David Horvath said he’s not pointing the finger and just needs the help. He’s worried about finding a place for their son to live if they have to leave on a moment’s notice. Essentials are on standby, packed up and ready to go.
“It’s hard asking for help. I’m supposed to be the strong person and I’m supposed to be here for my family and here I am, helpless.
“It could happen to anybody… If we don’t get out of this we’ll never get another mortgage. It’s just devastating.”
The city hired Taylor Geotechnical Engineering to survey the hillside. Results released this September note if the landslide isn’t fixed the homes should be moved closer to the street.
Amanda argued if the city had tackled the problem earlier it wouldn’t have gotten to that point, adding that funding is available every year. “They just dropped the ball.”
The Horvaths pleaded their case again to city council at an Aug. 24 meeting following a presentation by McElhanney of its Kitsumkalum Flood Mitigation Plan, along with options for fixing the McConnell landslide.
Projected costs for the work range from more than $2. 3 million on the low end and approaching $5 million on the high end.
Crissy Bennett, who is northwest regional manager for Emergency Managment B.C. (EMBC), said now that costing is available they can start looking at funding options for the work and planning for a town hall meeting with residents.
“The McConnell Crescent issue is a high priority for us. It has the attention of the minister and our assistant deputy minister, so it’s a priority,” Bennett said. “We’re going to move it forward as quickly as we can.”
Council resolved to apply for funding in the amount of $2 million by the end of September but neither the city nor EMBC could say where the rest of the money might come from. Work could start in the spring or next September.
Bennett promised to “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to finding funding, adding that EMBC is working with municipal affairs and “the tools at our disposal” to find something that fits.
Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc asked the Mores and Horvaths to “hang in there” while they look for solutions.
“I know it must seem absolutely painfully slow to you but know that we’re doing what we can to support you and we will give it our 100 per cent, plus.
“If any one of us were in your shoes we would want to know that that support was there and please know that we, all of us — through McElhanney, through EMBC, through the city — that we’re here with you.”
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