Gravel: the new gold

Whitehorse's gravel supply is low. And demand is growing. The city has two main gravel deposits: McLean Lake and Stevens, out by the junction of the Alaska and Klondike Highways, near the Takhini River and Hot Springs Road.

Whitehorse’s gravel supply is low.

And demand is growing.

The city has two main gravel deposits: McLean Lake and Stevens, out by the junction of the Alaska and Klondike Highways, near the Takhini River and Hot Springs Road.

For decades, the latter has stood virtually untouched while the McLean Lake site has turned into a busy pit. Eight different contractors grab gravel from sites there and a concrete plant has been approved.

“That disturbance is already there and has been even since before the housing was there because there was mining in the area and the area has been used for gravel for decades,” said Mike Gau, the city’s manager of planning and development services.

The McLean Lake area already has roads and industrial traffic, so it’s been easier to just build another driveway than make a whole new development, said Gau.

But the McLean Lake Residents’ Association has done its best to change that.

“We packed city council chambers repeatedly, there was a petition with thousands of names on it that indicated residents wanted the area to be a park area – not to be developed,” said Skeeter Miller-Wright, an executive on the association’s board of directors. “Over 200 people paid – they actually put money in this – to have their names put in a full page newspaper ad to city council stating the same thing -objecting to the batch plant and quarry development around the lake. Signatures came from all over the city.”

City council just ignored it all until the association took them to court, he said.

The case was heard in 2008 and appealed in 2009. The association won.

The city never conducted the testing when they should have, the judge said, according to their own legislation.

This month, work began on developing Stevens.

The city put an application to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment to test the quality and quantity of the gravel at the site.

But the application is not the result of the McLean Lake association’s opposition.

“There’s enough demand and contractors needing gravel that we need both. We need all of them,” said Gau, adding there could have been contractors up at Stevens already.

“We’ve been very busy over the last five, 10 years with development and it all requires gravel. It’s an essential building block and we need it for our roads.”

The lack of gravel north of Whitehorse also puts a strain on the city’s supply, said Gau.

There is still no closing date in sight for McLean Lake and a building permit has been given for the cement plant, meaning it could be built at any time.

Miller-Wright and the Association still hold to the fact that when, or if, the McLean Lake quarries are exhausted, the city is obligated to reclaim the area. But it is a stretch to believe it could turn into a protected park area.

In the city’s official community plan it is zoned as an industrial area for future use.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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