Giant Mine cleanup will likely force shutdown of boat launch

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The Giant Mine Remediation Project team is preparing to enter the next phase of the cleanup project and if it goes ahead, it could present major obstacles to recreational use in the vicinity of Giant Mine.

Natalie Plato, deputy director of the remediation project, which is co-managed by the department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and the territorial government, said this week that the team is awaiting the results of a resubmission for a Type A Water licence from the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. Results aren’t expected until mid-2020, but if approved, it will allow for the next phase of the remediation project to begin in 2021.

Photo courtesy of the Giant Mine Remediation Project team.
The Giant Mine Remediation Project team, pictured here in September 2018, meet with members of the regarding the site’s remediation, which will include clean-up work on city leased property on Northwest Yellowknife Bay over the next decade.

A big reality from the next phase will be that much of the public access to the Back Bay public boat launch and the Great Slave Sailing Club as well as parking and dry-dock storage of boats in and around those areas will likely be made off-limits to users for much of the next decade.

Both sites are leased by the city from the Department of Lands and are located within the Giant Mine Remediation project boundary.

The public boat launch, which is one of the few launches in the city that gives users direct access to Great Slave Lake, is expected to be shut down when soil contamination cleanup along the shoreline and dredging of sediment at the bottom of the bay tentatively begins in 2023, Plato said.

“We are envisioning getting to contaminated soil in the city area in 2023,” she said. “At that time there will be restricted areas which means the public boat launch will likely be shut down.”

Plato added in an email that the safety of residents has to be the number one consideration when working on the site.

“To ensure the safety of the public, the safety of the workers and to meet the general logistical requirements of a project of this scope, certain areas will not be accessible during some of the remediation work.”

Plato has been attending regular monthly meetings with the city since at least last summer to discuss plans on how to deal with the impact of users of the public boat launch as the team carries out remediation.

Timelines are uncertain and still being fine-tuned by the team, but Plato said work would likely take place over much of the coming decade, provided the water license application is successful.

Great Slave Sailing Club

Similar setbacks are expected to occur at the Great Slave Sailing Club, a major recreational area where about 80 sailboats, which range from 14-to 40-foot sized crafts, access the lake through Northwest Yellowknife Bay. Plato said her team has been meeting with the club board of directors regularly and as recently as this past fall to try to come up with a plan to limit the impact on users. In the end, however, all club users – which number up to 120 individuals and households – will be impacted, she said.

“For the people who have their boats dry docked – we have been meeting with the Great Slave Sailing Club on what that will look like,” she said. “Will they have to move their boats off site? Yes, very likely. But some boats are big and cumbersome, so we are working with (the club) on the best mechanism for the soils remediated with the boats there.”

Stephen Jeffery, commodore of the sailing club said there is likely to be less recreational impact on the club versus the heavily used public dock. He said logistical challenges are expected, especially with the larger sized boats, most of which are in the mooring field located offshore from the club.

Final details are unknown about how the club will respond until the project team receives its licence permitting, Jeffery said.

“There are simply too many unknowns at this time to answer questions concerning any temporary or extended relocation of the club as a result of … remediation of the site over the next decade,” Jeffery said in an email.

“We have an internal committee at the club tasked to keep an ongoing dialog with CIRNAC (Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada) and to explore all options available to the club.”

Rock face above town site site to be blasted for fill

Plato said should licence permitting be approved, the next phase will begin with the demolition of the Giant Mine townsite in 2021 and include remediation of that area to residential standards.

The rock-face, located above the public boat launch is also expected to be blasted and sloped to make for rockfill in open pit areas across the highway, she said. These decisions were drawn out from an 18-month surface design engagement completed in 2016.

“Through our engagement process we determined we will fill the open pits,” she said. “We need a lot of rock to fill in the pits, so one of the things we are looking at is the rockface above the pit.”

Plato said the team is expected to engage more with the public this year on whether blasting will go ahead and a solid plan is yet to be finalized.

Questions to the City of Yellowknife were not returned by press time.

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