Yukon Queen assessment incomplete, but vessel may still sail

After reviewing 150 pages of public comments from around the Yukon, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has deemed the MV…

After reviewing 150 pages of public comments from around the Yukon, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has deemed the MV Yukon Queen is not guilty of nine of 11 allegations of creating environmental damage.

However, a more comprehensive review is needed to determine if Holland America’s sightseeing vessel is sucking up juvenile salmon or eroding First Nations’ settlement land, said the assessment board after an eight-month review.

“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.

“Erosion is not a simple issue — there’s natural processes at play, but there could also be potential erosion from the Yukon Queen — it’s a pretty complex issue,” said Horne.

Also, additional information is needed to determine if fish are at risk from the passing vessel.

By summer, the Yukon Queen can sail if it receives approval from the two relevant “decision bodies;” the department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Trondek Hwech’in First Nation.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board’s ultimate decision is only a recommendation. Whatever it finds, the two decision bodies have final say.

With assessments running anywhere from six months to two years, there is a possibility the assessment will not be complete by the start of the May tourist season.

Contact Tristin Hopper at tristinh@yukon-news.com