A float plane taxis on Schwatka Lake in October 2017. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

City considers asking YG to run Schwatka float plane base

The possibility of the Yukon government taking over the Schwatka Lake aerodrome is an idea unlikely to take off anytime soon

The idea came up at the July 29 Whitehorse city council meeting, but officials with the territory’s Department of Highways and Public Works says the department has not looked into the idea and there’s no intention to do so right now.

Department spokesperson Oshea Jephson said Highways and Public Works “hasn’t undertaken any of the extensive policy, regulatory and financial research needed to take over the Schwatka Lake float plane base” as it had no intention of taking it over.

Jephson later clarified the department didn’t have any intention of taking over the base “at this time,” but would not say whether officials would be willing to meet with the city if requested to discuss the matter.

Coun. Samson Hartland raised the issue at the most recent council meeting.

He said Transport Canada has announced its intention to certify all water aerodromes.

The city currently operates the road along the lake and the docks used by float plane operators at Schwatka Lake.

The change by Transport Canada would move the aerodrome operation beyond what’s typically under the city’s jurisdiction, Hartland suggested.

“Yukon government has the resources and the expertise to deal with aviation and flight paths,” he said. “Yukon government could still follow the city’s Schwatka Lake area plan as it covers the needs of all users at the lake.”

Darryl Laliberte, vice-president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) Yukon, said local pilots support the move for the territory to oversee the aerodrome.

The site has a significant economic impact throughout the Yukon “for outfitter operations, tourism operations, even some private businesses — they use their airplanes to go to work sites,” he said.

Laliberte also said the potential changes to Transport Canada regulations would essentially turn water aerodromes like Schwatka Lake to airports and the impact of that on city operations may not be fully realized.

Hartland initially proposed the city meet with Yukon government officials to discuss the possibility. Other council members asked first for a report by city staff.

Coun. Dan Boyd said the city controls the dock space and oversees road maintenance, but it’s been his understanding the aerodrome itself is not a managed area.

“It’s worth doing some homework,” he said, adding that a meeting with territorial government officials following that may well be in order.

Mayor Dan Curtis agreed.

The territory has a flight plan study underway and management of the Schwatka Lake aerodrome that “would be worth looking into,” he said.

For now, city staff have been tasked with coming back to council with a report on the status of the aerodrome and its future.

Acting city manager Valerie Braga said a report will be prepared and presented at a future council meeting. No set date was given.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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