Open letter to Angus Robertson, deputy minister of the Department of Highways:
Congratulations on your recent appointment. I am wondering if, in getting settled in your new position, you have had the time yet to look at just how much the maintenance budget for the Dempster Highway will have to be increased should Northern Cross Yukon (NCY) be permitted to go ahead with its proposed exploration program at Eagle Plains?
In reviewing the NCY proposal currently before Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board it is hard to determine just how many semi-trucks per day they will require. The “daily traffic” graph in their submission makes no sense. However, in the same document, the “estimated round trip southern traffic per month” indicates that during the peak periods, mid-January to mid-February and mid-July to mid-August, the average number of semi-trucks might be 288 to 376 per month. And NCY also states that, if they find oil, every 5,000 barrels will require another 14 trucks per day! That’s a lot of trucks!
I have lived and worked on the Dempster Highway for over 40 years and I know that given a couple of days of rain that kind of big truck traffic will make sections of the road impassable without constant maintenance. And then there will be the resulting effect on tourism once the word spreads that the Dempster Highway is no longer what it has become internationally known for – an attractive tourist destination.
The “Magic and the Mystery” will disappear and we will be left with “Larger than Life” trucks throwing rocks and mud (or dust, depending on the weather) at our visitors. (2015 was a record year for visitors at the Tombstone Centre: 15,000!)
So looking at the economy and the very important contribution from tourism, you might want to consider what taking the Dempster Highway out of the picture as a tourist destination would amount to in terms of dollars in Yukon’s budget. Rental agencies probably won’t even allow their vehicles to be driven on the Dempster Highway.
And then, of course, all these trucks are not going to levitate at the “Dempster Corner” – they will be continuing on down the Klondike Highway and through Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway.