Saskatchewan

Up the creek: Regina Beach, Sask., homeowners desperate for support for slumping properties

For the past two years life has been moving for James Misfeldt and his wife Betty Sellers, literally. Slumping and shifting ground has caused their Regina Beach home to slide in all directions.

Slumping and shifting ground has caused Regina Beach home to slide, homeowners say

James Misfeldt's home has been slumping significantly for the past two years. He says money offered through PDAP is not enough. (CBC)

For the past two years, life has been moving for James Misfeldt and his wife Betty Sellers, literally. Slumping and shifting ground has caused their Regina Beach, Sask., home to slide in all directions.

They say the value of their home has plummeted and they can't afford to move or start over.

"It's a lot of stress we're living under. It's not the way I thought that we would go into our old age," Misfeldt said.

The couple bought their dream home in Regina Beach in 1992. 

"We're being told we should have had due diligence when we bought the house and had a geotech come out, structural engineers and yet homes here that had geotechs come and structural engineers and built their houses to spec, have had to move their house. So you can't win," Misfeldt said. 

"We bought in good faith and now we've lost everything."

Misfeldt can roll a ball on his hardwood floor in his living room and it will roll back in his direction. Cracks can be seen up the walls and doors don't open all the way.

This was Scott Stinson's home in April 2016 while he was in the midst of demolition. (CBC)
This is Stinson's now demolished home. (CBC)

The Misfeldts and some neighbours both in Regina Beach and around other parts of the Last Mountain Lake valley formed a group dubbed "Up the Creek." They hope by organizing the group, they can accomplish their goals.

But when it comes to Up the Creek not everyone is in the same boat.

Misfeldt said his house cannot be moved because it sits on a hill. Others want money for repairs. Some want their homes moved to another location.

They all agree that provincial disaster assistance should consider ongoing ground slumping a natural disaster and that money should cover those costs accordingly.

PDAP policy questioned

Disaster assistance covers one-time events but not ongoing ground movement. The Misfeldts and their neighbours affected by shifting are covered by provincial disaster assistance because a rain event in June 2014.

The province classified that event as a natural disaster which allowed both the Town of Regina Beach and residents to apply for disaster assistance.

We've lost everything.- James Misfeldt

The Misfeldts have applied and been granted disaster assistance but have not collected. They have until the end of this month.

Regina Beach: a town on a landslide

Thirty years ago, a study called Regina Beach - a town on a landslide by Regina engineering firm Clifton Associates was published in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal.

A portion reads:

  • "Landsliding along the valley dates back to erosion of the valley following deglaciation about 12,000 years ago."
  • "The effects of slope movements on structures have been observed at Regina Beach for several decades."

It concludes:

  • "The existing landslide mass is very sensitive to changes in stress and groundwater conditions. Unrestricted development of such geotechnically sensitive area can result in accelerated movements and extensive property damage."
A house once accompanied this driveway. The owners had it moved because of ground movement. (CBC)

As for the Misfeldts, they didn't know of the report and say the history of the valley has not stopped others from buying and building.

"You assumed that because there was development people had done their due diligence. I guess we trusted too much. We trusted that because a development was allowed on here it must be OK," Misfeldt said.

Government response

Grant Hilsenteger, executive director of PDA,  said the government is aware of the concerns of the home owners in Regina Beach regarding eligibility of their claims. 

He said PDAP will cover one-time natural disaster event that has to be approved and the program is cost shared with the federal government.

"Things that are naturally occurring or longer-term types of phenomena like recurring erosion or slumping those types of things aren't covered by either program," said Hilsenteger.

A for sale sign behind James Misfeldt's property and across the street from where the Stinson hose once was. (CBC)

"Unless something changes in the future with the programs. Those (slumping) types of damages would not be covered," Hilsenteger said.

PDAP provides a $40,000 relocation grant for home owners that want their homes physically moved, which has been claimed in a couple of cases.

It also has paid $806,000 dollars to the municipality of Regina Beach in disaster assistance. Hilsenteger did not have an amount for money paid to home owners in the area.

Development worries

One of the concerns of the home owners in the area is that homes are still being built and lots are being sold in areas where there is significant slumping.

"Communities need to be very cautious when they consider growth because they need to make sure that wherever growth is occurring is an area where they are not going to incur future risk," said Hilsenteger.

"The planning and development act provides municipalities with the authority to manage land use and development," Hilsenteger said.

The municipality sets its own development standards. If developers do not follow those guidelines, it could prevent them from collecting on future disaster assistance.

"From PDAP's perspective, the compliance with those municipal requirements could affect their eligibility for assistance under PDAP."

The Up the Creek group has met with their MLA Lyle Stewart and their MP Tom Lukiwski and other government officials.

The ministry of government relations, the department responsible for PDAP, has told the group its new minister Donna Harpauer will meet with them this month.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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