All the candidates in the upcoming civic byelection have been asked to provide their “vision” of the future of McIntyre Creek in 75 words or less.
This request came from the Friends of McIntyre Creek, the Porter Creek Community Association, the Takhini North Community Association and the Yukon Conservation Society.
The issue of Porter Creek D and Middle McIntyre Creek is complex and it would be negligent for me to provide less than full disclosure when responding to a question like this.
Simple statements without explanation lead to confusion.
While I recognize development is necessary as we grow, and also realize the proximity to existing infrastructure would result in cost savings, I am not convinced the creation of a subdivision in this area can be done without harmful effects to the delicate McIntyre Creek ecological system.
The damage already existing in the area caused by human interference is an indication that, as we move closer, more injury will ensue.
This is a watershed. Impurities added by drainage from new roads and other impacts caused by human habitation being in such close proximity to the sensitive environment will be problematic. McIntyre Creek drains into the Yukon River, which is already showing high levels of mercury.
The Animal Corridor Report by Environmental Dynamics Inc. (EDI) is now in. However, more time is needed to properly assess it and compare it with other studies done in the area. It cannot be considered the only report to rely on, as it is limited in its scope. Indeed, it appears like a predestined commentary.
The initial news reports talked about a 250-metre buffer zone on both sides of McIntyre Creek. The EDI report, although stating that 350 metres is the commonly accepted buffer zone, gives approval to 250 metres width in total; in other words, 125 metres on each side of the creek.
A recent statement from the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to the editor, talks about a “100-metre buffer from McIntyre Creek at all times.” Porter Creek D has yet to be surveyed.
These conflicting numbers, coupled with reports of councillors announcing their decision on the project even before the report and full information was available, are part of a distrust being expressed by citizens about the process and in city hall. Trust must be regained, earned again.
A previous study, the Porter Creek Bench Environmental and Special Places Background Report, completed by Gartner Lee (I believe in 2006) indicates the McIntyre Creek area is a sensitive ecological area as well as a salmon spawning creek. Any impurities in the water may cause a cessation of salmon spawning activity.
A quote from that study says, “Spawning salmon are very sensitive to the total suspended solids (TSS) in the water. Increased erosion, due to increased runoff, can increase the TSS in a stream. In conventional developments, erosion is increased due to an increase in a stream’s peak flows. On the Porter Creek Bench, increased erosion of the clay cliffs could also contribute TSS concentrations.”
What other areas are being considered for subdivision development?
I’m told city planners look years in advance at where development will move. Sharing that information now will allow the citizens of Whitehorse to be an integral part of the decision-making process before council begins to get set in its way of thinking.
Including citizens of Whitehorse in the early stages may help promote the trust so many currently believe is lacking. It is entirely possible one of the sites set for future subdivision development would be more acceptable to the public now.
There is no rush to develop a subdivision in Porter Creek D. I believe December 12 is far too soon for a decision to be made on this multifaceted issue. There is more development yet to be completed in Whistle Bend and a proposal is on the table for a large development of affordable housing at the location of the previous Mackenzie’s RV Park.
A postponement would allow groups to submit alternate proposals for the Middle McIntyre Creek area.
Proposals such as a park for the citizens of Whitehorse and our visitors could come forward with information on how they would be developed, at what cost and how it can be paid for.
For that matter, Whitehorse could research and investigate this kind of development as well. Subdivision development is not the only option.
I understand the pressure from the business community, developers and realtors for this development. However, the suggestion to create a park in the area needs to be adequately reviewed and given equal consideration as the social and environmental benefits may well outweigh the financial aspects of subdivision development.
This issue is far too important to be left to the pressures of lobby groups with a financial interest in the outcome, although their interests are important.
Those who value the social and environmental benefits must be heard and given equal consideration.
I believe that full information must be provided and the citizens of Whitehorse given the chance to make the decision on this crucial area, perhaps by referendum. That way, there is no question as to the will of the people.
I can be contacted at 333-0595, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or my website at www.normhamilton.ca/candidate/.