The Yukon Water Board has approved the use of Minto mine waste rock in Tatchun Creek.
The board halted the bridge reconstruction in early June after an application was filed by the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.
Tatchun Creek is a productive salmon bearing stream, and the First Nation was concerned that not enough testing had been completed to ensure the Minto rock would not leach toxic metals into the water.
Highways and Public Works has insisted through the process that the rock is clean and safe.
After halting the work on June 4, the water board asked for extra testing of the rock to be done and for a management plan to be developed to monitor the stream conditions.
The board lifted the ban on June 20 after the department submitted new test results.
“Like we said from the beginning, if they had told us that this is what they wanted us to do from the start, we would have been happy to do it,” said Allan Nixon, assistant deputy minister with Highways. “I think it’s unfortunate that we had the two-week delay while all this went on, but at the end of the day we satisfied the board, we tested the rock again and showed that it’s fine for the use it’s being used for.”
The delay will likely add at least $250,000 in costs to the $5.5 million project, said Nixon.
The contractor has announced its intention to file a claim for increased costs as a result of the delay, but the department does not yet know exactly how much that will be.
There are also the costs of the additional testing and monitoring that the department has done and will continue to do.
“We had the consultants basically on 24-hour retainer for a couple of weeks, so that adds up in a hurry,” said Nixon.
Still, the issue was resolved quickly enough to allow the bridge work to proceed this year.
There is only a small window when the creek is free of fish and work can be done.
The crews recently completed the in-stream work, and are continuing to place the rest of the riprap, said Nixon.
Highways staff and contractors have gone to great lengths to ensure the work is done in the right way, he said.
“I think they all deserve some credit for the extra effort they put into making this work. We’re confident that there’s not going to be any impact to the fisheries resource.”
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