White Pass cancels its herbicide plans

The company was in the process of applying to spray the chemicals in Yukon, but on Friday Environment Yukon was told the application was being withdrawn.

The White Pass and Yukon Route railway has cancelled the plan to spray herbicides along its tracks.

The company was in the process of applying to spray the chemicals in Yukon, but on Friday Environment Yukon was told the application was being withdrawn.

“Following the announcement that the WP & YR was preparing to spray herbicide on the right of way between Skagway and Carcross there has been a great deal of comment and debate about the merits, community concerns, and legality of the proposed program,” company president John Finlayson said in a letter.

The letter, sent to the City of Skagway, the Carcross/Tagish First Nations, Environment Yukon and DBI Services, Finlayson says the project has been suspended indefinitely for the entire right of way.

Calls to the company were not returned in time for today’s deadline.

A spokesperson for Environment Yukon said it received 30 public comments on the herbicide application over the two weeks that it was open for pubic review.

The railway argued the herbicides were necessary to clear weeds away and kill roots that could make the tracks unstable.

In a previous interview, Finlayson said the work was being done at the request of Transport Canada.

In his letter, he wrote that using herbicides was within White Pass’s legal right and that the company still believes the process is safe.

“The initial decision to utilize herbicide to meet these needs was based on the railroad industry standard, which has been proven to alleviate vegetation on both the surface and the sub grade of the roadbed,” the letter states.

The Yukon Conservation Society raised concerns about using herbicides, particularly on the tracks so close to the waters of the Bennett Arm. It also questioned whether the Yukon’s cold temperature would affect the process.

The company had submitted applications to use VisionMax and Arsenal, two herbicides that are potentially toxic to aquatic life.

The active chemical in Visonmax is glyphosate. Glyphosate is currently under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“We think this is good news for the environment,” YCS’s Lewis Rifkind said Friday. “However, we do recognize that they’re going to have to get rid of those weeds.

Hopefully they can find a less horrible way to do it.”

Finlayson said the company has been “made aware of alternative, non-herbicide related methods that may also meet our goals in a way that is more appreciated by our neighbours.”

The letter provides no details regarded what those methods are or if the railway will still be able to meet its verbal agreement with Transport Canada to have the weeds removed by the end of the year.

“As a community member we would be remiss if we did not examine and test these methods in a attempt to find a solution more acceptable to all involved,” it said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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