The window for comment submissions to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board on a proposed new quarry closed yesterday, but not before several local individuals and organizations raised concerns about the project.
The potential project, put forward by Ron Newsome of Territorial Contracting Ltd., would see a new quarry created at Sleeping Giant Hill, just off McLean Lake Rd. The quarry would provide aggregate, sand and gravel for Newsome’s planned concrete batch plant nearby. The batch plant was the subject of years of public wrangling and legal back-and-forth before receiving a final approval in 2012.
Skeeter Wright, commenting on behalf of the McLean Lake Residents’ Association, focused his concerns on McLean Lake’s inflow, water temperature, and possible damage to the lake’s rainbow trout population.
He noted that a previous City of Whitehorse official community plan required that hydrological and hydrogeological studies be completed before any gravel excavation could take place in the McLean Lake area. After a Yukon Supreme Court decision found that the city had failed to adhere to that requirement, Wright wrote, it was removed in a subsequent version of the plan. In the absence of completed studies, the residents’ association is opposed to the project.
Writing on behalf of the Yukon Conservation Society, mining co-ordinator Lewis Rifkind raised concerns about dust, noise, and groundwater contamination, among other issues. “The negative implications (water contamination, impacts on fish and fowl, change in water levels and associated impacts on flora) for McLean Lake, the drainage system and stream leading to Ear Lake, the Logan-Arkell wetlands and possibly the McIntyre Creek drainage system could be severe,” wrote Rifkind.
He also questioned the project’s proposed closure and relocation of an existing trail leading to McLean Lake from the road, and noted that the lake and surrounding area form part of a newly created city park. The society is seeking assurances that the project does not overlap with the park area, and that there is an appropriate buffer between them, he wrote.
The conservation society is not opposing the project outright at this stage, Rifkind clarified. But the society would like to see more detailed information addressing its concerns.
Mark Daniels, the president of the Klondike Snowmobile Association, offered a similarly nuanced submission. Daniels noted the importance of the existing trail to recreational users, and outlined several requests for its relocation. “The KSA is happy to work with the proponent and authorities having jurisdiction regarding trail alignment, design specifications, and signage,” he wrote.
A submission from the northern conservation section of Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service noted that the olive-sided flycatcher and the common nighthawk, both listed as “threatened” under the Species at Risk Act, are present in the project area. The rusty blackbird, listed as a species of special concern, can also be found there.
“The proposed project has the potential to impact migratory birds, species at risk and their habitats,” wrote Sherri Clifford for Environment Canada.
The assessment board now has the option to either request more information from the proponent, in response to concerns raised by the public, or to proceed with preparing a recommendation. Project proponent Ron Newsome did not respond to the News’ requests for comment.