One city neighbourhood is slowly sinking into the Red Deer River.
On any given year between 150 mm to 650 mm of slope along the riverbank in the Riverview Park residential area disappears into the river.
There is no imminent risk to Heritage Ranch and the 22 homes along the north side of Cronquist Drive. But on Monday the city moved up its plans by two years to protect the riverbank from continued regression.
Elaine Vincent, director of development services, told council that Riverview Park has the unique honour of having a very active slope because of the continuous regression of the toe of the slope based on the river’s course.
Riverview Park was annexed from the County of Red Deer in 2009 and is currently regulated under county zoning. It has not yet been integrated into the city’s land use bylaw due to risk to homes in the area and the need for detailed study of the slope.
Administration is currently working on a bylaw amendment to bring the area within the city’s land use bylaws.
Following a 2012 geotechnical report, the city purchased and demolished two homes in 2013 that were revealed to be at immediate risk. The report also suggested using rip rap toe stabilization to mitigate the erosion. The estimated $6.3 million toe stabilization project was on the 2017 books.
After hearing Monday’s report from administration, council decided that this project was essential to protecting the slope and moved it to the 2015 capital budget subject to a secured funding plan.
Councillors reasoned the work was a long time coming and it needs to be done sooner than later.
Mayor Tara Veer said the timing is right to apply for funding under new provincial flood mitigation programs. Recently the city was turned down for one funding grant but will actively pursue others.
The first report, however, did not answer where the city should draw development lines. Property owners in the area were temporarily halted from developing or redeveloping on the land while the city pursued funding to stabilize the bank.
Vincent told council that residents raised concerns about the temporary suspension of development at two open houses in July.
“They were feeling a bit hostage while we tried to pursue funding,” she said. “They really wanted us to understand the impacts if that temporary development hold continued.”
Council agreed to a 50-year escarpment overlay and directed administration to pursue toe stabilization to mitigate the slope regression. This will provide an interim level of safety that will provide enough time for a funding strategy to be secured.
Once the funding is secured for the work, the city will remove the 50-year escarpment and permit development based on the new reality.
Councillors raised concerns about the effectiveness of toe stabilization. Vincent said there are examples of the work in Red Deer that have been successful for many years.
First reading of the amended bylaw is expected to come to council on Aug. 18.