Calgary homeowners wonder what the long-term plan is for McHugh Bluff slope failure issues

Work is now underway to remediate the current McHugh Bluff slope failure that resulted in a pathway closure and the evacuation of two homes in June.

Harvey Cohen and his wife Linda Kitchin said tenants who live at their rental property in Sunnyside at the bottom of McHugh Bluff were told on June 13 that they had to evacuate their home due to the slope issues.

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“Firemen showed up to their door and said that they’re going to have to move and then a city inspector showed up and said they’re going to have to move,” said Harvey.

Two homes were evacuated as a precaution because of concerns about slope stability. Six days later on June 19, evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes.

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The pathway along McHugh Bluff between 5A Street and 6 Street N.W. was also shut down last month because of the slope failure and is expected to remain closed until next year.

McHugh Bluff is a popular spot for dog walkers and cyclists. It overlooks Calgary’s downtown skyline but now fences block off the path and notices warn against entry.

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“The slope stabilization issue has been there since pretty much the flood of 2013 and it’s been progressively eroding since then,” Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said. “It was when we started to see the pathway on the retaining wall start to slip and fall. We have to address this because it’s one thing to protect the houses, but it’s definitely important to protect the pedestrians on the pathway.”

The city has completed some short-term urgent measures on part of the McHugh slope.

The short-term work includes installing temporary coir matting to the middle portion where erosion gullies had developed. The short-term work will help reduce the erosion of the area until the long-term stability strategy is in place.

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City officials say following heavy rains in August of 2021, sections of the McHugh Bluff slope failed.

About 20 years ago, Cohen’s backyard sustained damage in a landslide. That was before a retaining wall was built.

Now, he’s raising concerns that more should have been done about this issue in the past. He says slope erosion and where the water is draining have been continuous issues for many years.

“What I’d like for them to do is to tell me what they are going to do,” Cohen said. “All I’ve been able to get out of them so far is that, ‘We have a short-term plan and we have a long-term plan that’s going to come after that next year.’

“It’s a beautiful part of the city. This is a treasure. Why can’t they fix it? Why can’t they do it once and for all and then let nature take over?”

The city says there’s no danger to the existing homes and they are continuing to monitor the slope every week. Officials said that they are still working on details regarding what the long-term work will consist of and added that construction is expected to start next year.

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A report regarding this project was presented to the Council Executive Committee in May of 2022. The report was presented in a closed meeting and recommendations were adopted that sections of the report be made confidential pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The budget is unable to be shared until after the project is complete.

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