Sewage pipe may complicate plans to build new French school in Riverdale

If the new French school gets built in Riverdale it'll have to share land with a main sewer pipe and potentially smelly sewer equipment.

If the new French school gets built in Riverdale it’ll have to share land with a main sewer pipe and potentially smelly sewer equipment.

The city won’t hand out a development permit until the Yukon government answers questions about what’s going on both above and below the ground, says Mayor Dan Curtis.

Curtis’s comments come after the city met with Yukon ministers behind closed doors on Friday to talk about building a new school on the site of the current skateboard park.

After very public squabbles, the two sides came away with a promise for two studies on the plan, one around potential traffic in the area and one on all the underground infrastructure.

There will also be a public meeting on the matter held sometime in the new school year.

Friday’s meeting included Public Works Minster Scott Kent, Education Minister Doug Graham and Community Services Minister Currie Dixon.

Riverdale’s main sewer line runs in front of the property, mostly parallel to Lewes Boulevard.

It’s 51 centimetres in diameter and about 5 metres underground. It services all of Riverdale, including the hospital.

Right now, it doesn’t appear the school would be built directly on top of the sewer line, according to Mike Gau, acting city manager.

It is important that the school not be built too close to the underground pipe. That’s so that there is enough space on either side in case crews ever need to do any repair work on the system, Gau said.

There should be a clearance of 10 metres on each side of the pipe, he said.

The property is also home to a sewer lift station.

The lift station pushes Riverdale sewage across the river into the city’s overall sewage system.

Tentative sketches have the station within 50 metres of the school, Gau said.

The station sometimes smells, according to both Curtis and Gau.

“That’s another thing, is it even possible to move it? I don’t know,” Curtis said.

“But these are things the experts have to discuss within EMR and within the engineering department of Whitehorse.”

Extra traffic created by the school is another concern. Plenty of residents already complain about how difficult it is to travel in and out over the neighbourhood’s one bridge.

That traffic study will look at planned expansions to Whitehorse General Hospital, the new F.H. Collins School and any development plans that are in the works for First Nations with land in Riverdale, Curtis said.

In an interview Tuesday, Kent said the Yukon government will be paying for all the studies but work with the city.

No timeline or budget has been set for the new school.

Once the studies are finished the government will have a better idea of how much work needs to be done and what those costs might be, he said.

The reports need to be done before the public consultation in the fall, Kent said.

The Yukon government has committed to building a new skate park before the old one gets torn out.

The Yukon’s French school board chose the site as its preferred location for the school.

The board and the government have been in a complicated court battle over French education for years. The Supreme Court of Canada recently sent the multi-million-dollar case back to square one.

Both sides have said they hope not to have to go back to court.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

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