Unstable hillside uproots concerns for Twin Lakes woman

Sam Verigin stands on the lower side of fissure that has opened up on a hillside a few hundred metres above her home. She says neither the property owner nor anyone from government has contacted her since she went public with her concerns almost two months ago. - Joe Fries/Western News
Sam Verigin stands on the lower side of fissure that has opened up on a hillside a few hundred metres above her home. She says neither the property owner nor anyone from government has contacted her since she went public with her concerns almost two months ago.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Two months after she went public with concerns about an unstable hillside above her home, a Twin Lakes woman is beginning to think her complaints fell on deaf ears.

“Absolutely nothing has happened,” Sam Verigin said Wednesday in an interview at her home, which is off Highway 3A about 10 minutes west of the Kaleden junction.

Her home is also just a few hundred meters downhill of an unstable slope that has released refrigerator-sized boulders and features a yawning fissure that has uprooted a handful of mature trees.

“Nobody’s contacted me. It’s frustrating, because you become news, big news, and everybody’s concerned. And then you’re dropped like a hotcake,” she said.

The jagged fissure, which looks to be about 75 metres long, three metres wide and three metres deep in places, opened up on a hillside into which a steep switchback was cut to serve as a driveway for unsold lots in the upper reaches of the Kaleden Acres development.

It appears the land on the downslope side of the fissure has sunk about two metres and is pulling away from the hillside, and Verigin suspects blasting used by the road builders is to blame for the instability.

Unearth Enterprises put its 20-lot Kaleden Acres development on the market in January. The area of concern is on private property but directly above Resolute Road, a public access, so it was brought to the attention of the B.C. Transportation Ministry.

In October, the ministry sent a team of engineers to look at the site. The experts determined there was no risk to Verigin’s home because they expected any slide material to channel down Resolute Road, which was then closed for safety reasons.

Ministry spokesperson Lisanne Bowness said this week that Resolute Road remains closed and the developer is still required to submit to government a geotechnical assessment and work plan to address any slope stability issues.

Unearth Enterprises principal Mark Goulden said via email that a geotechnical engineer and other experts have looked at the slope failure and “the general consensus seems to be that this was an act of nature.”

Goulden said he has yet to hear the engineer’s final recommendations, but believes a berm at the toe of the hill and ongoing monitoring of possible further movement will likely form the basis of any work plan.

In the meantime, he said, Verigin “is more likely to be struck by lightning than have any rocks from our property come anywhere near hers.”

And further,  if she is “genuinely concerned about the danger of any further movement on the site,” Goulden said, “I recommend she stop trespassing on my property.”

A considerable amount of material, including sand and boulders, appears to have been deposited at the base of the slope since the engineers’ visit in October. Still, that doesn’t appear to have raised any red flags for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

Community services manager Mark Woods said the RDOS is “not aware of any change at the Resolute Road rock slide location that presents a new or greater level of risk to residents in the area.”

Verigin plans to continue inspecting and photographing the slide area several times a week and has closed her bed-and-breakfast while she awaits word on a work plan to shore up the hillside.

“I try to stay above board as far as staying optimistic and everything, but I have a constant stress factor… not knowing when a large amount of rock might come down,” she said.

“It can happen at anytime, so that’s stressful.”


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