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Whitehorse escarpment static as device scans slope for potential slides

Landslides could potentially occur quickly, without much warning, despite efforts
The slope scanner scans the Whitehorse escarpment for slide movement from across the Yukon River on a sunny April 11. (Courtesy/City of Whitehorse)

Following a series of landslides in 2022 and 2023 that periodically shut down Whitehorse’s south access road, the city is reporting static conditions as its monitoring of the escarpment continues this spring.

According to an update issued by the city on April 10, the slope scanner and visual inspections have determined the slope is currently stable, and water is draining as anticipated during the early part of the seasonal melt.

The City of Whitehorse is relying, in part, on a rented slope scanner to observe movement and predict risks on the escarpment. The city also proactively resorts to monitoring groundwater levels, targeted survey monitoring of critical slope areas and drone surveys.

According to Taylor Eshpeter, the City of Whitehorse’s manager of engineering services, the radar-based slope scanner is getting close to real-time information at a frequent rate.

“It can detect quite small movements,” he said.

Eshpeter explained that the slope scanner can measure the rate of movement. He noted that lower rates of movement are less concerning.

“It’s once you start seeing large rates of movement, then that’s an indicator that there is, you know, there could potentially be a concern there,” he said.

Eshpeter added there’s “always a chance” that a potential slide situation could rapidly develop without much warning.

The slope scanner can’t capture everything, “but it does give us that early warning,” he said.

READ MORE: Here’s how the tree clinging onto Whitehorse’s escarpment hangs on

Per the update, city crews will be adjusting traffic lanes along Robert Service Way and replacing damaged pylons.

The city is advising road and trail users in the area to be cautious in case conditions change.

Full or partial road closures are still possible if geotechnical engineers recommend closing the road based on slope conditions.

The slope gave way on April 30, 2022, shutting a portion of Robert Service Way — one of two ways in and out of downtown — for six weeks.

On April 8, 2023, land slid down the escarpment north of the sheet pile wall installed in 2022.

Pending funding, 2026 is the earliest construction can begin on a permanent solution to avoid landslides putting at risk and closing the southern road in and out of downtown Whitehorse.

READ MORE: Building permanent solution to landslides can’t begin until 2026

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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