McKenzie Lake hillside eroding as city ponders plan to shore it up

Council will look at a plan next month to stop the erosion of a hillside in McKenzie Lake — a problem the city has already spent $4.4 million trying to fix. Meanwhile, homeowners nervously watch as the slope crumbles closer and closer to their backyards.

Crumbling embankment inching closer to houses despite $4.4M in stabilization projects

Homeowners along a stretch of road in the southeast Calgary community of McKenzie Lake are looking for answers as erosion damage continues to inch closer to their homes. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Calgary city council will consider next month how to shore up a slumping hillside in the deep southeast part of Calgary.

The edge keeps creeping closer to the backyards of people who live along Mt. Alberta View S.E. in the community of McKenzie Lake.

The city has spent $4.4 million in recent years to stabilize the slope. It has recovered $3.8 million of that from the province's Disaster Recovery Program (DRP).

However, the erosion continues and has resulted in the temporary relocation of a city pathway, which is between the houses and the edge of the hillside. The path has been damaged along a 3.5-kilometre stretch on the escarpment.

The city has already spent more than $4.4 million but more work is needed to arrest the problem. (Scott Dippel/CBC )

Active movement has been noted in the slope over the past several years. Flooding along the Bow River below the hill has cut into the escarpment. Heavy rains and what the city calls 'extreme weather events' in 2005, 2007, and 2011-2015 have further damaged the hill.

A confidential report was presented to the city's transportation and transit committee this week. It outlined four options for the city to deal with the erosion and preserve the pathway.

The committee was told one option is to extend a retaining wall in the hardest hit zone. A 90-metre long wall was built in 2009 and it has apparently stabilized the slope in that area. No dollar estimate has been released for extending the wall.

Matt Pachell, who owns a house backing onto the escarpment, wants the city to act decisively.

He told the committee, "If we continue to do the remedial — we heard the word 'band-aid' — solutions, the problem will only get worse and the cost to remediate the problem will only go higher."

A confidential report was presented to the city's transportation and transit committee this week. It outlined four options for the city to deal with the erosion and preserve the pathway. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

The houses were built in 1997-98 when McKenzie Lake was developed, and the paved pathway was put down in 2000. The property line was set back 18 metres from the edge of the bluff, but that has dwindled in places.

Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keating said the city will look at ensuring there's more of a setback for houses for future communities to prevent similar problems.

He said the city's priority is to protect the pathway, which is an important resource for cycle commuters as well as for recreational use by area residents. Counts done by the city found about 2,000 people per day use the pathway.

Keating said the erosion needs fixing. "There's no danger of the slope falling or any homes being in any danger as we stand today, but as time goes on, we're obviously going to see things slide a little more."

Beside the pathway issue, a report done for the transportation committee noted that adjacent property owners on Mt. Alberta View and Mt. Douglas Close are concerned about the potential loss of property value, and their ability to resell their homes because of the instability of the slope.