Development proposal raises fears for Fish Lake area wildlife

Whitehorse is considering rezoning of 11 hectares of land along the Fish Lake Road for country residential homes.

Whitehorse is considering rezoning of 11 hectares of land along the Fish Lake Road for country residential homes.

“Whitehorse residents are well aware of the apparent land crunch that’s going on,” ornithologist and Porter Creek resident Cameron Eckert told council during last week’s public hearing.

“But this seems to be a case of, there’s land here so we’ll build houses there.

“This isn’t planning. This is ad hoc, stream of consciousness when it comes to building houses.”

The rezoning application was made by Icy Waters, a fish farm that operates in the area and owns a little more than 75 hectares.

Most of this land is unused and has been left in its natural state.

The development would use 11 hectares along the existing Fish Lake Road to create six country residential lots.

The development would harm wildlife and two creeks in the area, said some Whitehorse residents.

“This development is in close proximity to Raven’s Ridge, which is on the other side of McIntyre Creek, basically making a very narrow path through which the wildlife can move,” said Carole Bookless, who also spoke at the public hearing.

“McIntyre Creek is the last wildlife corridor left connecting the Yukon River to the western hinterlands.

“Development has to be managed carefully or this corridor will disappear.”

A wildlife observation station is located across the street from Icy Waters and the proposed development, Bookless reminded council.

“The area now faces the same fate as the wildfowl-viewing area, which, as predicted, is void of wildfowl except for seagulls,” she said.

“Regular traffic, pets, lights and activity at Icy Waters’ development will negatively impact the McIntyre wildfowl as well.”

“I believe there is a demand for this type of property within the city,” said Icy Waters vice-president Jonathon Lucas, citing the quick sales of Raven’s Ridge and Whitehorse Copper.

The proposed development will be along a maintained road that won’t require any extra work or maintenance.

Lots will be kept to a minimum of one hectare per property to minimize the housing density and the impact on wildlife.

“It’s quite ironic to note that the noisiest, most densely populated part of the property, which is the farm area itself, is actually where the wildlife congregates and resides and doesn’t seem to be the least bit concerned by the busy human activity,” he said.

“We have mink, a pair of nesting bald eagles, mallards, and need an electric fence to restrict bear access.

“Regarding increased car use for this type of property, we’re three kilometres from Raven’s Ridge and about the same distance from downtown as Porter Creek,” Lucas added.

“People who live there cycle to and from downtown, so it’s perfectly in range, you don’t have to use a car to live there.”

Eckert had problems with those who would use a car, saying that the road isn’t adequate for the development.

It’s too steep in certain sections and the intersection with the Alaska Highway is extremely dangerous, he said.

Residents also used the public hearing to raise concerns about Icy Waters’ environmental record.

“The facility releases phosphates into the creek, which is the most probable cause of the demise of Hidden Lake at the terminus of Porter Creek,” said Bookless.

“And sewage from septic fields could enter the creek and that water, from wells, will be taken out of the Porter Creek Watershed.”

“The current phosphate license is for 0.18 milligrams per litre,” said Lucas.

“We have not broached that limit once in that entire time — we’re significantly underneath it.”

The fish farm monitors the water it releases into McIntyre Creek nine times a year and these results are available to the public, he added.

There’s also a lot of naturally occurring phosphorus in the territory.

“A lot of time and effort has been put into residential development in Whitehorse,” said Eckert.

“And then along comes this suggestion that we should be putting new country residential lots on the Fish Lake Road.

“That’s completely spontaneous and entirely not in keeping with the approach that the city council and mayor have adopted.”