The Town of Canmore is planning on paying $500,000 to fix a sinkhole in Three Sisters Mountain Village and then pursuing the provincial government and developer to recoup the funds.
Manager of engineering Kevin Van Vliet was in front of council earlier this month with a request to approve the funds and direction to recover costs to fill in the hole, which measures approximately 7.5 metres in diameter and is up to five metres deep and is on a pathway adjacent to Dyrgas Gate.
“We are recommending council provide capital funding to do restoration work, begin drilling and pursue parties that may be liable to cover those costs,” Van Vliet said.
However, due to the fact that recovering funds could take the form of a legal challenge against the provincial government and TSMV, which is in receivership, the matter was postponed until April.
Councillor John Borrowman asked if TSMV were still operating would the Town have expected it to do the work.
Van Vliet indicated some of the regulations required Three Sisters to have insurance, but whether that is specific to undermining on the land with the sinkhole, which is a municipal reserve, is a legal question.
At first it was thought the provincial government would cover the remediation of the sinkhole because under Alberta’s Municipal Government Act the province has underwritten all liabilities related to undermining in the Three Sisters area.
“There are a number of reasons we believe the province should have some accountability with this issue, which is why we expect to continue to talk to them,” Van Vliet said.
That protection under the act, however, applies only if something happens in TSMV related to undermining and then the Town of Canmore is sued as a result.
It does not appear to cover repair work for sinkholes that develop on Town-owned land, according to the province.
The insurance TSMV is required to have was then thought to cover the liability.
A staff report to council stated administration believes it can no longer wait for the receiver, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to remediate the sinkhole and it is in the best interest of the community for the Town to take the lead.
Mayor Ron Casey said this is the first such case that tests the undermining regulations of the MGA and the insurance of the developer “which we were under the impression protected us”.
“It behooves us to do what we can with this first case,” he said. “I believe the intent of the regulations is to cover our losses if something like this happens on our property.”
The sinkhole is the result of an airshaft from Seam No. 4 from the No. 4 mine, which was filled in during the 1940s. The No. 4 mine was in operation from 1937 – 1949 and the air shaft was approximately three metres wide and went down to a depth of 40 metres.
At the time of subdivision and development, the air shaft itself could not be located and the area was felt to be remediated until the sinkhole opened up last year.