Destruction Bay is going to be without a functioning dock again this year, seen here in the spring 2017, due to low water levels caused by glacial changes. (Submitted)

High and dry: Destruction Bay dock rendered useless by declining water levels

‘The priority launch should be where there is a community’

Destruction Bay is going to be without a functioning dock again this year and at least one community member is concerned that could be unsafe.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn confirmed the government won’t be dredging out the Destruction Bay marina where glacial changes have caused Kluane Lake water levels to drop so low the dock is unusable.

Mostyn said he’s not willing to pour money into dredging the lake until the government has a better idea of what is happening to the water.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan are going to be working with Environment Yukon on a hydrological study this summer with early results expected in the fall.

The government says it won’t be making any decisions until it has those results.

“I would love to be able to restore a marina in Destruction Bay but I’m not sure what that would cost and I don’t know whether it would be possible. So I’m looking at those things,” he said.

“With any luck things will stabilize and we’ll be able to come up with a new boat launch in the area. But at this time that’s not an option.”

This winter the officials tried to find an interim fix but all of those were deemed too expensive, according to the Department of Community Services.

Mostyn said the government was “looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars to dredge and then we may have to do that on an ongoing basis, we’re just not sure.”

In the meantime, the territory is spending $40,000 in this year working on Kluane Lake’s Sheep Mountain boat launch.

John Ostashek, a director with the Kluane Lake Athletic Association, is worried the Sheep Mountain launch — about 40 km from the community — won’t be as helpful in the event of an emergency.

Community members would have to drive down to get to a boat, he said

“If our marina in Destruction Bay was serviceable, there would be a boat floating in the water. Somebody would jump in it and be on that water within minutes.”

Ostashek said they’d need a bigger boat from Sheep Mountain because the water is deeper and gets bigger waves.

“It’s great if they want to fix the Sheep Mountain boat launch but it should not be the priority launch. The priority launch should be where there is a community,” he said.

Last year the RCMP corporal at the Haines Junction detachment wrote to MLA Wade Istchenko calling the Destruction Bay dock “the most strategic position of launch location from which to access the lake.” He pointed out that the location has already-existing infrastructure and an area to accommodate medevac if necessary.

Mostyn said he hasn’t heard any “concrete concerns” from his department or the RCMP regarding safety.

In a statement, RCMP acting Insp. Brad Kaeding didn’t explicitly say whether he thought the Destruction Bay marina was the safer option.

“Some of the areas our officers get dispatched to, whether on land or water, are easier to access than others,” the statement says.

Kaeding said the police work with what’s available to get people help as quickly as possible.

If the Destruction Bay dock was unavailable in the event of an emergency, “we would adjust as necessary to the circumstances that exist, and work with our partners and community members with local knowledge to determine the options available for rescue,” he said.

Istchenko said the government should be spending the money it has earmarked for the Sheep Mountain launch on the Destruction Bay marina.

“For public safety that’s the safest access point for the lake when the lake is stormy.”

Ostashek said people who want to get on the water are finding a beach somewhere and using trucks to back their trailers into the water.

“They’re just making do with whatever they can to get boats in the water.”

His community is losing out without a dock, he said.

It had to cancel its fishing derby fundraiser last year because of low water. If dredging doesn’t happen it will have to be cancelled again, he said.

The association renewed its waterfront lease last year. Ostashek said they were forced to buy insurance on the marina even though the dock is not functioning.

“It’s costing the club money, we can’t do our annual fishing derby, the fundraising thing we’ve done for years and years and years because we don’t have a serviceable marina. Yet we’re forced to pay the lease rate, the insurance.”

The Yukon government owns the water license, meaning it’s the government who is responsible for dredging, Ostashek said.

“If they would hand us the permit and the ability to raise the funds and give us permission to do it, it would have been done.” He suggested it wouldn’t actually cost more than what the government is spending on Sheep Mountain launch.

Mostyn called the offer “very generous” but said there would be a number of things to consider including environmental assessment applications and consultation with First Nations.

Ostashek said no elected officials have been to the community since the election.

Mostyn denys that. He said he’s been to the area to talk to community members, though he’s never had an official meeting with the association.

He said he’s willing to sit down and talk.

“Access to the water up in Destruction Bay is something that the community takes very seriously and I understand that, I really do. I think it’s tragic that they don’t have the ease of access that they’ve had throughout the past, for decades.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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