A Dawson City resident is fighting a sewer replacement project on Craig Street that would see around 56 trees and shrubs removed from the front of people’s homes. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Dawsonite considers legal action over sewer work

He says the work, that would destroy trees, was not clearly articulated

A Dawson City resident has hired a lawyer to investigate the possibility of seeking an injunction against a sewer replacement project on Craig Street that would see around 56 trees and shrubs removed from the front of people’s homes.

The construction is part of Dawson City’s plan to replace their aging sewer system. It involves the construction of a new underground sewer main in front of residents’ homes, which will involve removing some trees.

Ben Shore runs a bed and breakfast on Craig Street, and he estimates that around 26 trees and shrubs will be removed from the front of his house. Many of the trees are quite old, and some stretch as tall as 50 feet.

“It’s not just trees, it’s my entire front yard,” he said. “It’s my property value, my business advertising, my website, it’s all sorts of things. It’s dust control, it’s noise reduction, it’s heat reduction, it’s the aesthetic appeal for visitors who come to town. There’s all sorts of reasons to avert this.”

The matter stems from long-standing issues related to arbitrarily-placed property lines in Dawson City. The line that divides the properties of Craig Street residents and city property is actually located within the yards outside of people’s homes, around 10 to 12 feet away from the street. Conversely, parts of the city alley behind Craig Street residents’ homes is technically the property of various residents.

“The city alley is encroaching on the back part of our lots, and we’re inversely encroaching on the city street in front,” said Shore. Because of these irregular property lines, the forestry at the front of his bed and breakfast is considered city property.

Shore said he and other Craig Street residents participated in consultation on the project back in the winter, but were not informed that the trees in front of their homes would be fenced off and eventually cut down.

“We’ve really only heard, ‘your road’s going to be closed,’” he said. “(There were) no details whatsoever about any specifics about where the new sewage line is going to be placed and certainly no indication that any vegetation would be removed, or that our properties were apparently encroaching on the front of the street.”

Shore also expressed confusion at a section of the project’s proposal to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB), which states that no large trees need to be removed from the area.

He said he alerted the Yukon Department of Community Services and Premier Sandy Silver (who is the MLA for the region) about his concerns. A stop work order was implemented on June 29, but it was lifted on July 5.

“The work needs to move forward,” said Rick Kent, senior operations manager with infrastructure development for the Yukon Department of Community Services.

Kent said that although some trees will have to be cut down “on a case-by-case basis,” they will try to mitigate overall tree loss and plant new trees where some will have to be removed.

“We’re proceeding with the full commitment to do everything possible on the ground to build trenching in a way that allows for some adjustments where possible to move towards the roadway and around the trees,” he said.

However, Shore isn’t very confident they’ll be able to save many trees, since the project’s manholes still outline the same route where construction was initially planned.

“If you’re not moving any of the manholes, you’re not changing the design at all, then you have to hook up a line between one man hole and the next, how can it possibly be moving over?”

He wants to see Community Services look into alternatives such as moving construction closer into the street. However, Kent said a live water main underneath the road makes doing so impossible.

“We looked at that last week during our pause to revisit that, and due to conflict with existing water mains it couldn’t be done,” he said. “They’re a big safety issue for the workers.”

Shore also suggested that the contractors could halt work on Craig Street and start other work on the sewer project early in other areas. Kent rejected this idea too, noting that the project’s contractor works on a schedule where they order certain tools to arrive in a sequence.

In order to consult with residents, Kent said that the project’s contractor will communicate and make a plan with each resident to ensure there are no surprises with the rest of construction.

Although Kent said the feedback officials received was ultimately positive, Shore said many residents are quite confused and frustrated.

“Everyone is just trying to piece together what’s going on,” Shore said. “It’s not just limited to the people who live on Craig Street — people all across town and social media and in person have been just horrified at what’s being planned to happen here.”

Kent expects that construction on the street will continue over the next four to six weeks.

Shore said he’s considering court action to “stop this imminent and irreversible damage.”

As of the afternoon of July 9, no legal documents have been filed.

Contact Joshua Azizi at joshua.azizi@yukon-news.com

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