Yellowknife

Yellowknife backs away from plan for boat launch at Con Mine


If you’re looking forward to some time on the boat this summer, you won’t be launching from a dock at Con Mine. The City of Yellowknife has abandoned the plan.

A year ago, Yellowknife city councillors approved the acquisition of land at the old mine’s waterfront with a view to building a new boat launch there.

A new launch at Con Mine was thought necessary because remediation work at another former gold mine – Giant – was expected to see the public lose access to an existing boat launch.

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Later in 2019, the City filed compensation claims worth millions of dollars with the federally led Giant cleanup team, in part related to losing that launch.

However, the City now expects the federal remediation team to keep some form of Giant launch in place.

That means there’s no need for a new dock at Con.

“The City of Yellowknife, the GNWT, and the Government of Canada … have been working diligently to ensure that access to Great Slave Lake is maintained at the Giant Mine site during remediation,” read a brief statement from City spokesperson Alison Harrower on Friday.

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“There will be no additional docking facility built at Con Mine,” Harrower wrote.

The main cleanup phase at the highly toxic Giant site – a project expected to cost the federal government $1 billion or more – is set to begin next year and last until 2030.

No formal deal just yet

Yellowknifers aren’t entirely reliant on the launch at Giant as there is another boat launch in Old Town.

However, that one doesn’t accommodate all types of boat, is smaller than the Giant launch, and parking can be difficult. That led City staff to consider a launch at Con instead.

Dozens of vessels use the Great Slave Sailing Club’s boat yard, next to Giant Mine on Back Bay.

Various boat owners filed separate compensation claims with the Giant team last year, anticipating a total loss of access to the yard. Records show some of those claims have been withdrawn in recent weeks.

Late last month, the Giant Mine remediation team said in a letter it would build its own boat launch if it had to, near the current launch but away from the cleanup work, to make sure the public had access.

At the time, however, the federal cleanup team said efforts to reach an agreement on that front – between the team, the territorial government, and the City of Yellowknife – “have not yet been successful.”

In a letter of its own issued at the same time, the City concurred that no agreement had been reached but remained “hopeful that negotiations could continue.”

Sailing club ends compensation bid

The Great Slave Sailing Club itself appears happy that a solution has already been found, even if the City and the Giant team have yet to sign off on it.

The sailing club’s letter on the same topic formally withdraws its request for compensation.

“I’m pleased to report that the Giant Mine Remediation Project team [has] made significant effort to communicate with us and other stakeholders, and to resolve our concerns,” wrote Ben Russo, the club’s president, on March 27.

Russo said the club understood it would be allowed to store boats “in the general vicinity” of its current boat yard; would get the property back in “as good or better condition” when remediation is over; and would have “uninterrupted boat access to Back Bay” throughout the cleanup, one way or the other, as would the general public.

“Based on this understanding, I hereby withdraw our claim for compensation and confirm that we will not pursue this further,” Russo added.

The City of Yellowknife said in its statement on Friday: “Further information will be available in the coming weeks as an agreement between the parties involved is in the final stages.”

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