Quarry for Upper McLean Lake approved

Skookum Asphalt just got a step closer to building a quarry near Upper McLean Lake. A 26-hectare quarry has been vetted by the Yukon Environmental…

Skookum Asphalt just got a step closer to building a quarry near Upper McLean Lake.

A 26-hectare quarry has been vetted by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

The site was approved without a hydrological study of the McLean Lake watershed, which the proposal acknowledges would be beneficial.

The plan may conflict with a referendum in the new year that proposes creating a park around McLean Lake with a 500-metre buffer area.

That referendum, initiated through a petition by Marianne Darragh, was allowed to proceed just two weeks ago after Whitehorse took Darragh to court over its proposal to amend the Official Community Plan.

Her petition was spurred by efforts to build another quarry on McLean Lake.

And a month ago, councillor Doug Graham raised concerns that three quarry operators near Ear Lake, including Skookum Asphalt, have not paid enough into a reclamation fund to clean up the area once the quarries are no longer operational.

There is no word yet if the fee for the reclamation fund will be increased this time around.

The proposed quarry will overlap a popular ski trail area by 100 metres. It will also cross over an area used for dog mushing, but the proposal says the seasonal overlap will be minimal.

The quarry has an estimated 20-year lifespan, however the environmental board approval only certifies the site for five years.

The quarry will require the building of a 600-metre-long and five-metre-wide road. It will extract between 40,000 and 75,000 tonnes of material annually. Trucks used to transport material will also run along the Copper Haul and McLean Lake roads.

During the proposal’s public input phase, one resident argued that a proper hydrological study should be done of the McLean Lake watershed in order to find out how it works.

The proposal’s overseer writes that while the site is 150 metres from Upper McLean Lake and a third of the site is in the McLean Lake watershed, zoning in the Official Community Plan — which lists the area as Natural Resource — trumps the need for a hydrological study.

The most industrially concentrated area would likely only be four hectares within the 26-hectare area. The proposal acknowledges that the rezoning may overlap Darragh’s park area, because it’s still unclear how close to McLean Lake the industrial site would be.

Darragh’s petition would affect two parts of the Official Community Plan, which zones the area as both industrial and greenbelt.

First, a park would be created from McLean Lake’s high-water mark and up to 500 metres from that point. Second, the plan must zone to this effect and move the land from the territorial government’s responsibility to the city’s.

Kwanlin Dun owns a parcel of land 750 metres from the site designated as residential. Though the site will create high levels of dust, smoke, odour and noise, the proposal believes it shouldn’t affect the land nor the road to get there, known as Squatters’ Road.

Possible contaminants include “diesel fuel, gasoline, hydraulic fluids, coolants, lubricants, solvents, and cleansers.” Contamination could kill animals if leaked in high enough concentrations.

The proposal also warns that contaminants could harm more animals through the food chain.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com