Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SEEKING PROGRESS – Christoph Altherr, the local president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, is seen this morning at Schwatka Lake. There’s been no movement on the provision of parking and the addition of dock space, he says.

Meeting on dock space is needed, city told

It’s time for an all-party meeting to address the availability of dock space for float planes at Schwatka Lake,

By Chuck Tobin on September 4, 2019

It’s time for an all-party meeting to address the availability of dock space for float planes at Schwatka Lake, says the local president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA).

Christoph Altherr told city council Tuesday night the first matter of business is settling the conflict between city hall and Alpine Aviation.

After a meeting recently with the city planning department, it’s clear everybody needs to be at the table to discuss the matter, Altherr said in his presentation to council.

“To ensure that everybody has first-hand information, it is important that such a meeting would include city council, city planners, Alpine, COPA, and possibly also other operators and maybe even pilots on the wait list for dock space,” Altherr said.

“And since most land around the lake still belongs to the territorial government, a representative of (the territorial Department of) Highways and Public Works should be at the table too; after all, aviation is a territory-wide transportation matter.”

Secondly, Altherr said, the city needs to move on the recommendation in the 2015 Schwatka Lake Plan calling for more parking space along the Miles Canyon Road to allow for the addition of more float plane docks.

The COPA president said the 2015 plan is a good one, but there’s been no movement on the provision of parking and the addition of dock space.

Having everybody at the table would also move the parties toward establishing a Schwatka Lake working group recommended in the plan, Altherr told council.

There are 18 names on the waiting list for dock space.

Alpine has had permits for three sites since 2016, but was told last March its permit for site 11 or dock 11 would not be renewed, as per the city’s prerogative.

The intent was to provide site 11 to the next on the waiting list.

Mike Gau is the city’s director of development services. He told council last night Alpine was given until Aug. 28 to separate dock 11 from the company’s docks 12 and 13, to make modifications to the dock to allow for a new operator, or reach a sharing agreement with the operator.

The company did not reach an agreement, but the city has given it a 30-day extension to do so, he said.

Gau explained in an interview this morning that Alpine Aviation was allowed to have the third site if it provided room for pilots travelling through Whitehorse who needed a birth overnight and such.

The company has been accommodating, Gau said, but with the city now having established its own docking facilities for pilots passing through, it was determined the third dock site under permit to Alpine Aviation would go to the next operator on the waiting list.

Providing additional parking along Miles Canyon Road to allow for more aviation docks will require substantial work to widen the road, he added.

A survey of the road will be completed this fall and will serve as a basis for the city to do the design work in 2020, he said.

The design, Gau explained, will provide the ability to estimate the cost of the project, which could go ahead in 2021 if city council approves the work.

Widening the road will be a substantial undertaking, and will cost money, he explained.

Gau said it’s not as simple as accepting an offer from the pilots’ association to have one of its members, a qualified engineer, design additional parking along the road at no cost to the city.

Widening the road along the lakeshore, with wetlands on the opposite side, will need to go through a review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, he said.

Altherr suggested to council last night that resolving the issue of providing much-needed dock space does not have to be a complicated process.

Provide the parking, stake out where the new docks will be situated, and the aviation community will do the rest, he said.

Altherr pointed out individual pilots and companies are responsible for providing and maintaining their own docks.

Once parking is in place, it would only be a very small step to assign new dock spaces, he said.

“All the city would have to do is put a stake in the ground to mark the new dock sites, ticking off the waiting list and then send a bill to the new permit holders for the lease fee.”

Altherr told council it seems the city does not understand the importance of the float plane base to the larger business community, “whether it be outfitters, exploration companies, grocery providers, tourism operators as well as YG’s environmental & wildlife branch.

“We ask the city to take a deep breath and look at the issue as a whole, instead of targeting single businesses!”

Comments (10)

Up 10 Down 1

Josey Wales on Sep 6, 2019 at 11:14 pm

Hey just a stupid question...speaking for everyone are ya?
Funny thing about you claiming no one cares, is that I do not actually care about the level of care you may or may not have...in my participation here.

Float pilots typically do not like landing on logs, floating debris and other non water things. To avoid collisions with any of those items, but not limited to, they look out the window and set down where those things are not.

Pilots are not like our drivers in town, taxiing to the right of you...cuz you are in their way and they have important (not remotely) things to do, texting and rotating happens as much as our drivers stopping at stop signs. There may be a couple that do either, but not likely.
Often, but not always a focus is inferred with piloting an aircraft due to the serious nature of piloting its very self.
Can the same generally be said for swimmers, boaters ...”etc” ?
Absolutely not.
Why you have your panties so twisted, not certain and still not caring...and will now go away as you requested JSQ.

Up 14 Down 1

Michael Miller on Sep 6, 2019 at 7:43 pm

The bullying by city staff concerns me and I cannot understand why this file and aircraft docking on this lake is such a mess. When management locks horns and pressures individuals or businesses it seems that council does nothing to intervene.

I have looked at the number of the Alpine Aviation floatplanes using docks 11 and 12 and it seems reasonable that Alpine Aviation be allowed to use dock 11 in the manner that they are using it.

COUNCIL should resolve this as soon as possible for it seems the public has lost all confidence in city planning and management. Why would a staff member say that Alpine's problems would be over if they bid on the Black Sheep Aviation dock when they had no guarantee of getting it?- or was the plan to give it to Alpine regardless of how high their bid was to get them off the area of the lake they currently use. There has to be more to this story!

Management and planning of the docks at the lake and large city parks is best done by more reasonable people who can see the big picture and achieve a balance that residents and businesses support. There appears to be pressuring and bullying and a blatant disregard for goodwill and reasonable accommodation.

Up 14 Down 1

JES on Sep 6, 2019 at 6:28 pm

In this article an interview with, Director Mike Gau explained "that Alpine Aviation was allowed to have the third site if it provided room for pilots travelling through Whitehorse who needed a birth overnight and such. The company has been accommodating, Gau said, but with the city now having established its own docking facilities for pilots passing through, it was determined the third dock site under permit to Alpine Aviation would go to the next operator on the waiting list"

This statement is not correct. The city does not own a floatplane dock on Schwatka lake and certainly does not provide any services to transients aircraft. The dock Mr.Gau mentions belongs to Alkan Air which has a condition in their lease that they have to provide room and fuel for transients, a deal similar to what Alpine has with dock #11. The main difference between the two is the fact that Alpine's dock is always staffed.

Misleading statements like this are the roots of the troubles we are in and the only way out is getting all parties at the same table.

Up 12 Down 9

Just a question on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:07 pm

How is the landing of aircraft coordinated with people swimming, boating etc? And, JW go away, nobody cares.

Up 14 Down 8

Josey Wales on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:20 am

Hey Wes...zoned park eh? Given the last twenty years I had a understanding that our OCP is written in pencil, the kings crew and the SS have the eraser...and they use it whenever it best fits THEIR agenda not ours.
Class warfare is at its peak currently, the divide is easier to see than drunks puking all over town.
That artificial lake is a great representation of this community.
A community rife with fake people, doing invented and fake jobs, fake importance of a BALLOONING bureaucracy legislated virtually at least four hours a day more and more into our lives....blah blah blah..

Planning? Our civic wizards, and wizards they are...full of trickery and deceit could not plan a freaking birthday party without forgetting the candles, spell the name wrong etc.
I have said it so many times I am sick of hearing/reading it...
NEVER underestimate a civic government and its ability to dominate your life and future plans.

I would rather have a lake so full of aircraft you could walk to the triad of sailing sea cans on the other side using aluminum as a walkway.
...rather than the horrendous volumes of cultural elites staggering/puking all over this enabling sty.

Look forward to next summers cat Vs. dog on the lake permitted day’s scandal.
What a absolute joke how this place is RULED...it is not governed it is ruled.
We are their subjects, clearly.

Up 28 Down 2

BnR on Sep 6, 2019 at 5:57 am

The City has had some real issues since they got rid of Rob Fendrick and Brian Crist. Now they have a bunch of inexperienced millennials who run planning with no over-site.

Up 39 Down 0

Wes on Sep 5, 2019 at 8:17 am

North_of, East side of the lake is all zoned Parks I believe, so that might not work out.
That being said, the whole West side of Schwatka just North of Alpines docks forms one large bay with ample room for dozens of aircraft. If parking is the issue, on the non-lake side of the Miles Canyon road along this bay, just create a parking lane. There is room along there. There are also many flat areas in the vicinity which could be converted to parking. The City charges dock owners, but they get nothing in return.
C'mon City of Whitehorse, you dump money into all sorts of silly projects like studies on bus lanes, why not throw some money at the Schwatka area sea plane facilities? Look at Lake Hood in Anchorage? It's a LOT smaller than Schwatka and has many, many more aircraft, yet they make it work.

Up 39 Down 0

Mark Chapman on Sep 4, 2019 at 4:45 pm

This issue is so ridiculous and it shows how inept city planning is.
The Schwatka Lake plan should have been implemented years ago, just identify the dock sites and think about where people can park it's not rocket science.

The trails the Schwatka Lake plan identified cannot be signed because they now involve another area plan which needs public review and the Robert Service Way plan has been shelved because the city wants to create dirt bike trails in the ESA near Ear Lake.
Did I say city planning is inept?

Up 35 Down 1

Robert Wills on Sep 4, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Commercial tourism operators have first right to renew so keeping Yukon business thriving is the first priority. Holding operators hostage for road widening negotiation with YG is cruel because there is no safety issue on the road to begin with. If so, the road can remain closed between the lake aerodrome and Miles Canyon all summer so that seaplanes can continue to land safely without interference and no traffic problems arrive.
The city’s anti-business tirade needs to stop before it starts arresting citizens for promoting tourism and business safely as they have done for twenty years with full grandfathered rights and complete harmony with all users. Get a grip on the heavy handedness, City of Whitehorse.

Up 54 Down 1

North_of_60 on Sep 4, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Why is it so difficult for the govts involved to create more dock space on the other side of the lake where there is ample parking and places for sea-can structures to stay in place year round?

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