Wharf project will set sail, despite concerns

An environmental assessment has given the go ahead to a downtown wharf on the Yukon River, even though loss of salmon habitat, settlement land and erosion were singled out as concerns.

An environmental assessment has given the go ahead to a downtown wharf on the Yukon River, even though loss of salmon habitat, settlement land and erosion were singled out as concerns.

The wharf, a wide, wooden deck stretched between Strickland Avenue and Main Street, was proposed by the territorial government in the mid ‘80s.

The wharf is part of a larger vision by the territory to develop the downtown waterfront.

Wednesday, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board released a study outlining negative impacts of the project and ways to potentially mitigate them.

With the project intended to begin in the spring of 2010, sedimentation and erosion from heavy machinery will affect spawning salmon, the report stated. “Fish eggs require continuous water flow to supply oxygen to ensure their survival and are therefore particularly sensitive to the smothering effects of increased sedimentation,” wrote assessment officer Nikki Scotney, in her report.

And newly hatched salmon seek refuge along the river shorelines, an activity that will become difficult with construction in the Yukon River, she noted.

“Where older fish can move to avoid disturbance, fish at this stage cannot. Their limited mobility therefore makes them extremely vulnerable and sensitive to habitat disturbance.”

The removal of vegetation along the river, which regulates water flow and temperature and provides shelter and food sources to fish, will further endanger salmon populations, Scotney said in her report.

The destruction of salmon habitat is a worry to the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, whose traditional lands provide the site for the proposed wharf.

“The TKC values Yukon River salmon as a part of

its healthy heritage, culture, environment and way of life,” Julia Ahlgern, environmental assessment technician for Ta’an Kwach’an Council said in the report.

The disruption of settlement lands downstream from the proposed project was also noted by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

“KDFN is concerned that altering the river hydrology … will result in increased sedimentation and erosion of their settlement lands,” said Scotney in her report. “These two parcels of settlement land have particular value because they are to be developed.”

“The proposed project will result in significant adverse effects to settlement lands.”

Completing a hydrology report and working with the Kwanlin Dun to address concerns are potential ways of mitigating the settlement issues, wrote Scotney.

“We’ll be looking through the report and giving it careful consideration,” said Community Services acting infrastructure director Kevin McDonnell.

McDonnell could not comment on concerns outlined in the document.

“We haven’t gone through it enough in detail yet,” he said.

The territory has 30 days to write a response to YESAB’s report.

Contact Vivian Belik at vivianb@yukon-news.com

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