YESAB waiting on Holland America

Waiting on a submission from Holland America, an environmental assessment of the Yukon Queen II remains stalled. Meanwhile, the Yukon Queen II continues to run unregulated along the Yukon River.

Waiting on a submission from Holland America, an environmental assessment of the Yukon Queen II remains stalled.

Meanwhile, the Yukon Queen II continues to run unregulated along the Yukon River.

In operation since 1999, locals have long suspected that the Yukon Queen’s large size and relatively high speed may be prompting erosion of the river bank and stranding salmon fry.

A 2008 assessment by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board was inconclusive.

“There were no studies that would give us an understanding of the rate or extent of the erosion that was attributable to the Yukon Queen—and without that information it was difficult to determine significance,” said Felix Horne, who led the initial evaluation.

Holland America was tasked with commissioning a revised project proposal.

“That was six, seven months ago, so where’s this proposal?” said James MacDonald, director of natural resources for the Tr’ondek Hwech’in. “We’re all waiting to see this proposal, and then we can continue to move this environmental screening forward.”

In May, Holland America threatened to pull out of the territory if the Yukon Queen was forcibly docked.

If Holland America can’t sell the Queen, it can’t sell the Yukon, Steve Leonard, vice-president and general manager of Westmark Hotels, said during a May 1 meeting in Dawson City.

“We’re better selling the rail belt in Alaska,” Leonard told the Klondike Sun.

Losing Holland America “would be catastrophic for all tourism businesses in the Territory,” wrote Rod Taylor, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon in a 2008 submission to the board.

“The end of Holland America in Dawson will bring the tourism business there to a halt,” he wrote.

The Yukon Queen kills approximately 15,000 salmon fry per year, said Frank Quinn, area director of the department of fisheries and oceans.

Of that, 100 would have grown into adult salmon.

“You have to put it in perspective … that’s more (salmon) than some First Nations took last year,” said Quinn.

Holland America has applied to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for a permit to kill fish “by means other than fishing.”

The company has also applied for authorization to “alter, disrupt or destroy” fish habitat.

In return, the company would supply a compensation package.

More salmon fry could be released at the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery.

Scholarship and “public education” programs could also be in the mix, wrote Linda Huston, Holland America’s director of Southeast Alaska and Yukon operations in a fall letter.

Huston could not be reached for comment.

While stranded Chinook have received the most attention, the Yukon Queen may be also be stranding the river’s freshwater fish.

“Even as a recreational user of the river I have found dead juvenile fish stranded in areas not normally considered,” read a YESAA submission by David Curtis, a Dawson-based commercial fisher.

Effects on freshwater fish are “likely small,” submitted the Yukon Department of the Environment.

A video produced by the Tr’ondek Hwech’in showed two-foot-high waves crashing into the shore.

Waves from the boat can penetrate as much as six metres inland, noted several Dawson residents.

One described seeing their tiny boat beached by the advancing vessel.

Speed limits should be assigned to any vessel more than 10 metres in length, suggested the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council.

Storms “are a far greater threat than the wave from a boat,” wrote Chris Ball, a commercial fisher.

The Yukon would lose 146 seasonal and 181 full time positions, equal to almost a $1 million in wages, according to tourism association estimates.

Yukon businesses would lose the estimated $12 million spent annually by visiting Holland America customers.

Five million of that money is spent in Dawson City, read a 2007 report by the department of tourism.

Without the Yukon Queen, “my operation would not be viable,” wrote Diana Andrew, owner of Dawson City’s Dancing Moose Gifts.

Andrew attributes 26 per cent of her revenue to Holland America tourists.

“I understand that bank erosion is a concern for some people, however, after seeing how the Yukon river has carved new channels and changed its own course … I would conclude that some erosion is a natural, healthy part of any river system,” said Greg Kehoe, a goldsmith at the Carcross Barracks gift shop in Carcross.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read