Work to develop a new boat launch, fish collection station, and dock near Yellowknife’s former Con Mine is slowly getting under way.
Eventually, the territorial government hopes to provide a better boat launch than the existing, deteriorating facility, alongside space for commercial fishers to offload their haul.
The territory has completed an initial step by transferring land at the Con Mine boat launch from the Department of Lands to the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment, known as ITI.
The next step is a feasibility assessment by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or DFO, which holds jurisdiction over Great Slave Lake and commercial fishing in the territory.
At a Great Slave constituency meeting on August 3, MLA Katrina Nokleby and around 15 of her constituents met with ITI minister Caroline Wawzonek and her staff to discuss the project.
“The purpose is to have a space for commercial fishers to offload so they don’t have to travel to the south end of the lake for processing, allowing fishers at the north half of the lake to participate on a bigger scale,” minutes of that meeting stated.
The dock will allow the loading of fish onto trucks destined for Hay River’s new fish plant. No fish processing will be done on-site. The fish collection station will be run by the Tu Cho Fishers Cooperative, but it’s unclear how the broader site of the boat launch and dock will be managed.
There is time to figure that out, though. Before any further planning takes place, DFO’s feasibility assessment needs to conclude. If the department deems the area suitable, an environmental assessment and possible site remediation will be required.
Consultations with the public and commercial fishers will be held by both levels of government “to determine what is needed at the site by all users, and the scope and size of the project” before construction begins.
Last spring, the City of Yellowknife backed away from its own plan for a new boat launch at the same site. The city had considered acquiring the land because remediation of another former gold mine – Giant – was expected to close off access to an existing boat launch.
In March 2020, 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. The city duly scrapped its Con Mine boat launch plan.
Site not safe – but still used regularly
Completing a new dock, boat launch, and collection station is currently expected to take years. Nokleby says the work can’t wait because the area is already being used by the public and probably won’t remain safe for long.
The MLA argues the approach to the boat launch is steep, there are sinkholes and signs of erosion, and one bad storm could render the site unusable.
“I’m a geological engineer and when I look at the dock and how things are operating there … this can’t wait,” she said. “There’s not even a garbage can there.”
Nokleby started looking into the area when her constituents raised concerns about littering and drug-dealing at the site. Who exactly is responsible for the site’s management remains unclear.
“It feels like a no-man’s land and it’s just falling through everyone’s cracks,” Nokleby told Cabin Radio.
Minister Wawzonek committed to updating Nokleby on the GNWT’s response to safety concerns raised at the constituency meeting.
Nokleby has asked GNWT engineers to visit the site in the interim.