Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

CLOSURE PENDING – The Dawson City Airport runway (far left) will be closed for paving from May 19 to May 26, though the dates are dependent on the weather, the Yukon government said Monday.

Dawson airport to close in May for work

The Dawson City Airport will be shut down for a week in May with no planes leaving nor arriving.

By Palak Mangat on March 12, 2019

The Dawson City Airport will be shut down for a week in May with no planes leaving nor arriving.

Helicopters, however, will operate from the site, the Yukon government said Monday.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn’s statement came a year after YG said it would begin construction on a new maintenance facility at the airport.

That site will be complete this summer “in just a few short months,” Mostyn added Monday.

The airport will be shut down from May 19 to May 26, depending on whether rain delays the work. Travellers are urged to contact airlines directly for any flight availability or further information.

The paving and associated work add up to the tune of $9.9 million via work awarded to Skookum Asphalt Ltd.

Oshea Jephson, a Highways and Public Works spokesperson, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that $6.3 million of that is for the runway paving. The remainder is for the apron and taxiway construction work, which includes work along Front Street.

The site will allow workers “to work in a dry, heated facility year-round and ensure that airport equipment is safely stored during cold and inclement weather,” Mostyn added.

A heated site will also meet the maintenance standards and needs of a paved runway, which have “heightened.”

Other medivac supports will be in place during the closure, Mostyn said.

YG “is going to be adding resources to ensure coverage during the shutdown of the airport.”

That will include more paramedics and helicopter or ground transportation to Mayo if need be, as well as additional wildlife support.

The government was unable to clarify exactly what and how many those resources included in time for today’s publication.

“We are planning for this shutdown to happen, and we are putting new resources in place to make sure that the citizens of Dawson have the support they need while this critical piece of infrastructure is being improved.”

The Yukon Party’s interim leader, Stacey Hassard, asked the minister last year if all improvements had been approved by Transport Canada and Nav Canada, and reiterated it Monday.

“Of course, geography is geography,” Mostyn noted, adding that YG intends scheduled service for Dawson to not be interrupted.

“We have a plan to go forward to ensure that we have an exception that will allow scheduled services to the Dawson City runway for Air North,” he added.

On Tuesday, the department was unable to confirm to the Star what that exception includes and how close YG is to finalizing it.

Last September, Air North’s president, Joe Sparling, told the Star the paving of the airport was a long time coming.

That’s because upgrading infrastructure in northern areas can come with higher price tags paired with the cost of maintaining aircraft.

More modern jets will be able to access the paved area, he said, including the Boeing 737-500s which some opt for instead of the older 737-200s.

The latter can land on gravel (which the airport currently has) but tend to use more fuel than the newer ones, along with suffering more wear and tear. That limits the types of planes that airlines can use.

According to the tender documents dated last year, the work (which falls in the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in), was to included asphalt paving of the runway by covering 31 by 1,525 metres.

Asphalt paving was to also take place of about 400 square metres near Front Street in Dawson’s downtown area, with work to be done by the end of July of this year, the tender noted.

In early 2016 (before the Liberals came into power later that year), a business case analysis by the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce and consultants from B.C. estimated the cost to pave the site at $11 million, with an added $805,000 needed each year for maintenance costs.

Mostyn noted Monday that the Dawson site will see operations and maintenance costs of $1.2 million annually, something Mostyn noted after the Yukon Party’s questions about the project’s budget.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson also pushed the minister. She noted this was the “second annual ministerial statement” on the paving of the Dawson airport (Monday’s paired with one on April 11, 2018).

“There are implications of spending money to have a facility – a runway – that will not change the material facts nor will it increase the accessibility,” Hanson said.

She also wondered what this means for other airports, like the Old Crow runway.

Built during the first half of the 1930s, the Dawson site is the second-busiest airport in the Yukon. It rests in Premier Sandy Silver’s riding of the Klondike.

Comments (2)

Up 1 Down 4

Donovan on Mar 15, 2019 at 9:36 am

So the basic idea here is to spend $10 million to support Holland America/Westmark run it's operations and save a few extra dollars in fuel. In all reality they will be the ones that will be using the runway for those bigger aircraft 99.9% of the time. Air Norths daily flights do not require a bigger better runway

Up 1 Down 7

Yukoner79 on Mar 13, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Just a thought...maybe the government could have waited a little longer so those travelling by plane to Dawson for Gold Show would have the option of departure dates and not have to be gone for the last day? Ridiculous planning.

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