British Columbia

'I can't sleep here anymore': B.C. couple worries home will slide into river, as bank continues to wash away

A couple from the Slocan Valley is worried their retirement home is about to slide down a 40 metre bank, and they may have to walk away from it.

The pair has been turned down for financial assistance twice

Scott Carlson and Christa Brakmann have started moving their possessions away from their home onto another property they bought nearby out of concern the house will slide away as the bank erodes. (Bob Keating/CBC)

A couple from the Slocan Valley is worried their retirement home is about to slide down a 40-metre bank, and they may have to walk away from it.

Scott Carlson and Christa Brakmann bought the home and four hectares of land overlooking the Little Slocan River in 1997. In 2012, the bank in front of the house started to slide, taking mature trees with it.

"Three to four hundred thousand cubic metres of material, that's eight dump trucks a day at least, since 2012," Carlson said.

The couple got a geo-technical assessment on the property, did some mitigation work down at the Little Slocan River and chose to move their 325-square-metre, two-storey home further back on the lot, which cost them about $150,000.

But landslides kept eating away at their property.

Christa Brakmann said the 2020 spring freshet ate away at the bank that supports her home, making it more and more unsafe to live in. (Bob Keating/CBC)

"Once the first slide happened, there was no one that was going to give us landslide insurance," Carlson said.  

The couple applied for Disaster Financial Assistance from the provincial government but were turned down, twice.

In a letter to the couple from 2013, they were told "DFA is only available for damage to a principal residence as a direct result of a DFA eligible disaster. It cannot compensate for long-term on ongoing landslide risks."

Local regional district director Walter Popoff got involved but said he could not find a solution either.

"I've tried everything to secure some kind of funding, but it's like hitting a brick wall," he said.

'I can't sleep here any more,' Christa Brakmann said of her home that is starting to slide down towards a steep bank. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Carlson and Brakmann have stayed in the home but are growing worried it's just not safe anymore.

Brakmann said 2018 was a bad year for landslides, and the spring freshet of 2020 ate away at the river bank even more.

She's started moving their possessions to a home they bought a half hour away in Castlegar.

'You're doing something here in the garden and sometimes it shoots out like a channel, almost like a little river," she said.

"I can't sleep here anymore."

The couple plan to apply for Disaster Financial Assistance one more time but expect to be turned down again. Their neighbours are worried about them and their home sliding down into the river below.

"We feel for Scott of course and Christa losing their home like this," neighbour Bill White said. "But the bigger thing now is, the house is a ticking time bomb."

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