Mysterious winter spring floods Annie Lake Road

What steams, oozes and covers kilometre 25 of the Annie Lake Road? Stumped? So is Lori Green. She and her husband, Hans Kolaritsch…

What steams, oozes and covers kilometre 25 of the Annie Lake Road?

Stumped?

So is Lori Green.

She and her husband, Hans Kolaritsch — the only folks who live that far down the road — have been trying to figure out the mystery for more than two weeks now.

This saga began in mid January on the way to the hair salon.

Green works at Hello Gorgeous, in downtown Whitehorse. She was headed there when she discovered water flowing across the road.

It was at least minus 30 Celsius outside.

Green thought it was lava.

“It’s creepy and it’s hot,” she said during a phone interview. “So there’s steam and stuff because it’s really cold out.”

By dinner, the water had flooded the entire road, turning it into a phantasmagoric rink.

“It was weird and it was oozing. That’s what it looks like. It’s like some kind of bizarre horror movie.”

It’s unlikely the stream is actually hot, according to Tamra Reynolds, who also lives on the Annie Lake Road.

A hydrogeologist by profession, Reynolds has not done a professional investigation into the source of the spring.

But the steam is probably the result of frosty air, she suggested.

 “I don’t think it’s actually hot water,” Reynolds said in a recent interview. “It’s just that it’s moving water. I think it’s just groundwater flowing down.”

During the spring thaw there is often a creek running down to the road in the same spot.

The warm and cold snaps this winter may have caused the water table to rise higher than usual, prompting the creek to surface in the winter months, said Reynolds.

It is the first time Annie Lake Road residents have seen the spring in winter, though.

“(My husband) has lived there for 25 years and he’s never seen anything like it,” said Green. “It’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s not near any water source.”

With plummeting January temperatures, the road has started to resemble a glacier.

At times the ice sheet has grown more than a half-metre thick and as wide as a truck and a half, forming a barrier that prevents people from passing overtop, said Green.

Road hazard crews made the trip down the South Klondike Highway to set up warning signs, scrape ice off the road, and dig channels to divert the water flow.

However, within a few days the channels were frozen again and water was spilling over the road once more.

Water can be found along the Annie Lake Road in winter, but it rarely reaches the driving portion, according to Doris Wurfbaum, communications officer for the department of Highways and Public Works.

“It’s not uncommon to have water on the surface of ditches and it stays fluid because of the snow and vegetation that covers it.”

With scant snowfall this winter, she said, water is freezing and damming up rather than draining.

The ice has made the road hazardous, which is a concern for Green.

“It’s very dangerous,” she said. “There’s tonnes of people who come out skiing and Ski-Dooing.

“We’re worried about great big trucks going too fast, with trailers full of heavy Ski-Doos, that are going to fly off the road.”

While the source of the winter spring may never be found, Green hopes someone can come up with a fix to stop the flooding. (CO)

JUSTICE

Murder trial date set

In a brief court appearance Tuesday, lawyers scheduled the trial for two men accused of murder.

Dean Boucher, 33, and Mark Lange, 26, are set to appear before the court in late spring.

The courtroom has been reserved for four weeks, from May 15 to June 9.

The co-accused are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Carcross hotelier Robert Olson.

Few details have been released about what transpired the night Olson died, sometime between December 23 and 24, 2004.

The death was violent.

RCMP found Olson’s remains in the Wolf Creek subdivision, south of downtown Whitehorse, on December 27.

The body was so badly mutilated it took 11 days for police to identify it, and then only by fingerprints.

Olson owned the Caribou Hotel in Carcross. Police were frequently called there to break up fights.

Olson also had problems with break-ins and thefts at his bar and had lost his liquor licence numerous times.

Keith Parkkari is representing Boucher and Andre Roothman is Lange’s counsel.

Crown lawyer Peter Chisholm was in court to represent prosecution. (CO)

ECONOMY

Railroad study chugs along

The first stage of a feasibility study for the proposed railroad between Alaska and the Yukon is almost complete.

Assessments of market potential and engineering of the rail link have been ongoing for six months.

“The results of stage one will cap the most comprehensive research of northern railway prospects since a 1942 US government survey conducted during the construction of the Alaska Highway,” said Kells Boland, project manager for the Alaska-Canada rail link feasibility study.

“From this grassroots research, starting this spring in stage two we will be able to address the critical question of financial feasibility along with public interest issues,” Boland said in a release.

Lots of research has already been done.

Most recently, a pre-feasibility study was completed in spring 2005 by Boston-based Charles River Associates Inc.

It recommended that “demand for the Alaska-Canada rail link would be sufficiently strong to justify its construction” because “projected volumes represent a long-term, steady-state level of flows.”

However, “additional analyses are required to detail each specific flow, predict the timing of that flow, and bound the assumptions and probabilities with each,” said the Charles River report.

Two other recent studies contradicted the Charles River findings.

A 2001 report by the multinational IBI Group, commissioned by Transport Canada, claimed that “the business case is frail” for the Alaska-Canada rail link, and “the total benefits for Canada are questionable.”

And a 2004 report by Calgary-based Prolog Canada Inc., commissioned by the Yukon government, claims that “there is renewed impetus for Alaska railroad expansion toward Canada and it is driven by a military rather than a commercial business case.”

The market analysis will quantify existing demand for transportation from Alaska to Northern British Columbia through the Yukon.

It will also calculate future demand, taking into account resource extraction, passenger traffic and possible construction of a natural gas pipeline along the Alaska Highway.

The technical analysis will consider various routes for the railroad and look at alternative modes of transportation.

Costs for every alternative will be calculated.

“With its conclusion this coming summer, the completed study will provide sound economic and engineering information to build a business case for investors,” said Boland.

“If the business case cannot support rail construction right away, the study will nevertheless provide a comprehensive body of knowledge to support future transportation planning in the North.”

More than $1 million in contracts were awarded in fall 2005 for the study’s first stage.

Roughly 45 per cent of the contracts went to Yukon companies, according to the Alaska Canada Rail Link group based in Whitehorse.

The feasibility study is expected to be complete by summer 2006. (GM)