Letter to the Editor

Look to the future Open letter to mayor and council re McLean Lake: More than a half-century ago, McLean Lake and surrounding area were declared a…

Look to the future

Open letter to mayor and council re McLean Lake:

More than a half-century ago, McLean Lake and surrounding area were declared a game sanctuary by territorial ordinance.

More than a half-century ago, policymakers of the day recognized that the McLean Lake area was an invaluable asset in proximity to a growing city — a natural habitat that was worth protecting for the benefit of future generations.

These values existed long before the polarized interests of current residents and proponents of industrial development within the McLean Lake watershed.

Currently, residents and visitors alike repeatedly mention that what they treasure most about Whitehorse is its “wilderness city” aspect: that anybody can enjoy an intact natural environment that is situated just a few kilometers from downtown Whitehorse.

Area residents have lived with the existence of numerous quarries nearby for well beyond a decade.

The proposed construction of a concrete batch plant within a stone’s throw of McLean Lake is an unacceptable option in the year 2007 when across North America there is growing awareness of the impacts of industrial development situated next to residential areas.

Despite identifying alternative sites, despite countless hours of grassroots community work, despite the involvement of hundreds of Whitehorse residents making their views known on this issue, and despite having won a Supreme Court case that declared the city’s zoning bylaw invalid, the proponent (and the city at this point) persist in their pursuit to complete the deed and bring industrial development to our doorsteps.

An amended bylaw has been introduced and allows for the construction of only the concrete batch plant — a crafty way of circumventing the Supreme Court’s legal directive that detailed water studies shall be undertaken prior to any further quarry development at McLean Lake.

As a result, a growing number of concerned citizens believe there is no other option than to send a clear message to mayor and council by “way of petition for referendum,” that McLean Lake shall be protected for future generations.”

The chosen site is situated in close proximity to land selected by Kwanlin Dun First Nation for future community development.

The First Nation made a statement before city council at the public hearing on this issue last winter.

The First Nation’s concerns also seem to have fallen upon deaf ears.

I encourage mayor and council to revisit these stated concerns in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes of the past, i.e. situating industrial development right next to aboriginal communities.

I believe that the proposed batch plant constitutes the “thin edge of the wedge” that will attract and enable other more polluting industries to relocate to an already environmentally compromised area.

One has to look no further than current industrial development at Ear Lake; or where the smoke went from the recent clearing for Hamilton Blvd Extension road allowance to conclude that an industrial area at McLean Lake will pose significant health risks for many Whitehorse residents.

Monday, 7:30 p.m. at city hall is the next public hearing for this bylaw.

I encourage concerned individuals to attend this event. And better yet, take an hour and go to McLean Lake and see for yourself.

There are alternatives.

Together we can save McLean Lake for future generations.

Natalie Edelson

Whitehorse

Preserve the Lake

On Monday, city council will hold a public hearing on Territorial Contracting’s application to rezone 14 hectares of land near McLean Lake from Future Development to IQ (Quarries).

The company wants to get private ownership of the land to build a concrete batch plant that, for the time being, will process gravel extracted elsewhere.

This application is being made to get a toe in the door.

The real goal is quarrying Sleeping Giant Hill, beside McLean Lake.

In February 2006, council approved Territorial Contracting’s application to rezone the land near McLean Lake for quarrying and a concrete batch plant, but the Yukon Supreme Court overturned this decision because it did not comply with the Official Community Plan.

The OCP says that prior to any further gravel extraction, there must be a detailed groundwater assessment of the McLean Lake watershed, and this has not been done.

In the September 18 Whitehorse Star, Territorial Contracting’s owner Ron Newsome was quoted as saying that he is not abandoning the idea of quarrying at McLean Lake.

If council approves Territorial Contracting’s current application, the outcome of future applications for quarrying beside the lake may be prejudiced.

Before the company spends money on groundwater studies council needs to take a serious look at the best uses for this area.

This beautiful lake within city limits is the kind of wildlife and recreational area that makes Whitehorse a desirable place to live.

This is also a prime area for well-planned residential developments.

The city also needs to take a look at what locations are suitable for heavy industrial uses like concrete plants — arguably not in environmentally sensitive and recreationally popular areas.

There are existing quarries in the vicinity, but they are not right beside McLean Lake.

Territorial Contracting wants to quarry within 150 meters of the lake and build its concrete plant on top of a well-used access trail.

A gravel quarry beside McLean Lake would benefit one company.

A protected area around the lake, combined with well-planned residential development nearby would benefit all Whitehorse residents forever.

Karen Baltgailis, Yukon Conservation Society, Whitehorse