Genelle resident John Vanin shows the short distance (18 feet) between the railroad tracks and the crumbling cliff edge on July 9.

Genelle resident John Vanin shows the short distance (18 feet) between the railroad tracks and the crumbling cliff edge on July 9.

Rocks, dirt and trees – slip, sliding away in Genelle

Long-time ongoing erosion was accelerated by recent heavy rain

There’s something that’s been bothering John Vanin of Genelle and he’s been worried about it for quite a while.

It’s a disappearing hill near his home and he’s been casually monitoring its erosion since moving to Genelle about ten years ago.

The hill is a couple of hundred feet high, with China Creek at the bottom and CP Rail tracks at the top.

Mr. Vanin guided me to the top on July 9, where a steady stream of dirt and rocks was slowly, and sometimes quickly sliding toward the creek below.

There are trees that have tumbled and more that will very soon. The recent heavy rains had done a lot in accelerating the erosion.

Vanin said he had never seen such a rapid change in the cliff, an observation shared by neighbour Dwayne Mills who has lived in the area for 21 years.

The major source of concern for these men and others in the area, is the rail line at the top. Vanin brought a tape measure on our walk, which indicated a mere 18 feet from the tracks to the edge of the cliff – a distance likely to shorten at very short notice.

“There was a fellow from CP here,” said Vanin, “and a fellow from Emcon and some government-type people and they said it has been an issue for years, as to whose responsibility it is.”

Work has been ongoing on the part of CP Rail, with many large rocks having been brought in to bolster the bank at its lower levels. Vanin and others are hoping something may be forthcoming in the way of re-routing the tracks further from the edge of the cliff. It does appear, to the untrained eye, that there is enough room to do so. The major concern is the worry that a rail car or cars loaded with hazardous material could eventually plunge over the edge.

A return call from CP Rail had not been received as of this writing, but Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, Area B Director Linda Worley said on July 10 that reports she had heard indicate CP was well aware of the issue and, dealing with it.

Like many in the area she is keeping close tabs on the cliff and when the record breaking rains of June occurred the alarm bells rang with greater intensity than ever.

Worley described how she’s been watching the deterioration since the 80s.

“It was eroding back then and it’s just gone on from there.” the director said.

“I have reported it a number of times to CPR and different authorities and they kept saying there was nothing to worry about.

“It’s been a problem for a long time and it should have been addressed earlier,” she said. “That’s my personal feeling.”

In the meantime it appears there is yet another area in the region with a vested interest in a prolonged drying trend.