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!”