The city is trying to squeeze drinking water and homes from the same patch of McIntyre Creek land.
It’s a plan that would pollute groundwater and destroy habitat, said conservationist Tami Hamilton, as she led a group of people through an evening hike of the creek on Friday.
“For a city that will start relying on aquifers for water, do we want to start messing with this area?” she said.
The city announced this summer it will no longer rely upon Schwatka Lake for its drinking water supply. Stringent federal and territorial guidelines will require the city to mechanically treat any surface water, an option
Whitehorse wants to avoid for financial reasons, said city planner Mike Ellis.
The city is hoping that by winter it will have secured groundwater sources instead, including some that run through McIntyre Creek.
But in that same area, the city wants to build 400 new housing units.
If the city intends to use the McIntyre Creek aquifer for drinking water, then it needs to make a point of protecting it, said Hamilton. The wetland acts as a filtration system, purifying water that runs through it, before it ends up
in city wells.
“If you start meddling with the watershed, it impacts the (Yukon) River system,” she said.
“It may not seem that this area would be that impacted by development, but each part (of the ecosystem) is connected to the next.”
Hamilton points to the Columbia River as an example of a heavily polluted river system. In many parts of the Columbia, which runs through BC and Washington state, there are no fish and drinking the water is unthinkable, she
Protecting McIntyre Creek for drinking water isn’t the only issue, added Hamilton. Many animals also use the area to breed and forage for food. It’s the longest contiguous corridor of wildlife left in Whitehorse, she said.
Moose, caribou, bears, lynx and birds use the creek as a conduit to cross from Fish Lake over to Swan Lake, said Hamilton.
“It is habitat that has already been impacted by the creation of the (Copper Haul) road. More development would only further affect that corridor,” she said.
In Alaska, where development destroyed most of these corridors, moose are calving in people’s backyards.
“Whitehorse is a small city but we have to start thinking 50 years down the road,” said Hamilton.
Dorothy Bradley, who organized the hike and is director of the Friends of McIntyre Creek, has lived in the area for 40 years. She hopes to see the creek turned into a territorial park.
The city likely realizes the importance of McIntyre Creek, but the health of the creek is drowned out by the interests of developers, said Bradley.
“The city has people banging on their door saying, ‘I have land to develop,’ and the thing is that these people are hard to ignore, they just keep banging louder.”
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