Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

MAJOR JOB LOOMS – Tracy Allen (left), the city’s director of operations, and city engineer Michael Abbott speak during Thursday afternoon’s press conference, with the landslide in the back.

Wall requires special equipment from Alberta

Robert Service Way will remain closed for a few more weeks as the city looks to implement a plan to make the area safe, says Mayor Laura Cabott.

By Chuck Tobin on May 13, 2022

Robert Service Way will remain closed for a few more weeks as the city looks to implement a plan to make the area safe, says Mayor Laura Cabott.

She and senior city officials held a press conference Thursday afternoon near the bottom of the Apr. 30 slide to explain the situation.

“We wanted to provide better information to the public so they know what the situation is right now and plans going forward,” Cabott said.

The mayor said she would have liked to say the road would be open in a few more days.

“That is not going to happen.”

She said the city engineering staff have been working with other engineers in the city along with a consulting engineer from down south to assess the situation.

“They have advised us what to do, and what we need to do is probably going to take a few weeks,” said Cabott.

Survey instruments have been set up near the slide to monitor it. There continues to be movement.

It’s estimated the volume of dirt that came down is approximately 2,000 cubic metres, or the equivalent of about 200 dump truck loads.

The slide took out the White Pass railway track, a light standard and the guard rails before coming to rest on the Yukon River ice. The Millennium Trail is also blocked.

Security has been set up along Robert Service Way on both sides of the slide to ensure nobody accesses the area.

Approximately 200 metres south of the new mudslide is a slide that came down last year.

Water was flowing out of the 2021 slide, with enough volume that it sounded like a small waterfall.

The city had already planned an assessment of the escarpment this year, prior to the mudslide.

Tracy Allen, the city’s director of operations, said they’ve noticed ongoing shifting in the new slide.

It has moved about 120 millimetres (four-plus inches) in the last 10 days or so, which is quite significant in terms of soil movement, she said.

Allen said there is the danger that more material in the slide area could still shear away.

Tension cracks as wide as 20 millimetres have been observed.

Where the slide broke loose, there remains a jagged edge of more dirt above.

City engineer Michael Abbott said once it’s safe to get in there to work, staff intend to build a wall using corrugated sheet metal steel pounded into the ground.

The cost of building the wall and clearing the debris is estimated at $450,000, he said.

Abbott explained they’ll do their best to remove the material that has reached the river without disturbing the river bottom.

He expects crews could be in there beginning in a week or so, once the required material for the wall has been moved to the site.

A crane will have to be mobilized, he explained.

Abbott said a special piece of equipment required to pound in the sheet metal is coming up from Alberta.

The work erecting the wall and clearing the debris will be done at the same time, more or less, he explained.

“Once we have all the material ready and onsite, we are going to get in there and monitor the slide in real time as we do the work to make sure it is safe while we are working,” he said.

The city engineer said crews will monitor visually and with the survey instruments while onsite.

“We are hoping to have it open in a few weeks,” he said.

Abbott said the sheet metal wall is being described as temporary, though it may become part of the permanent solution, which has not been determined.

The steel wall buys the city at least a year to look at a permanent barrier, which could include a concrete block wall or some sort of berm, he said.

“It gives us time to fully assess the situation more and come up with what we feel is the best long-term plan, which this could be incorporated into,” he said.

In assessing the situation, Abbott said, they did consider triggering another slide to shake loose any dangerous material, in much the same way as highway crews trigger avalanches to remove the threat.

They ruled it out because they were not confident they could do it in a manner that did not cause more damage, he said.

Cabott thanked the public for what she described as being co-operative and patient, given the inconvenience the road closure has caused.

She continued to encourage residents to do what they can to reduce traffic volumes by carpooling, taking the bus or using active transportation like cycling.

Seward, Alaska cleaning up its landslide ... see p. 14.

Comments (35)

Up 1 Down 0

Charlie's Aunt on May 19, 2022 at 5:32 pm

I read an article somewhere reporting on all the unused steel that had been stockpiled for Trump's cancelled wall along Mexican border. It is now neatly stacked and going rusty. Maybe CoW can cut a deal!!!!

Up 21 Down 3

Rick S on May 18, 2022 at 5:36 pm

My first job 20 years ago was working for Norcope as a teenager. Our crew would have cleared this out in a day or two, and we wouldn't have moaned about safety pay either.

Up 30 Down 15

Quick! Move the dams before we’re all damned! on May 17, 2022 at 11:13 am

The Lewes River and the Schwatka lake damns could be wiped out with clay/mud slides at any moment now!
What? Whitehorse was built on a flood plain - WTF!

Everyone is gonna die, we’re all gonna die, there is no one in Whitehorse who can save us from the ravages of anthropogenically induced climate change… But let’s keep building on it… The sunk cost fallacy given real world, real time, metaphorical legitimacy of the bias…

It’s like that scene in Grown Ups with Adam Sandler where they shoot an arrow into the sky and everybody scatters… The CoW is Joe Pesci… Standing there waiting for the arrow to pierce its foot… Shaking in their metaphorical risk adverse boots like a judge whose judgment is impaired by the trembling finger, apprehensive, because the current prescript of social morays eschews the finality of an externally imposed judgment…

Do not judge lest thou be judged. This turns the focus outward - The narrative is set in motion… But for, they are not responsible for the consequences of their behaviour because they are not responsible for theirs.

So here we have it, an entire socio-legal system predicated upon the absence of a moral, ethical, and legal culpability Again, but for the authority to do so, there would be no individual accountability but for the need to construct a legitimizing narrative to preserve a hierarchical socio-political structure to protect and justify their power.

Your implicit support of this system is evidence of a conditioned insanity - Just stop it!
Quit putting lipstick on the pigs of politicking! They actually think they are pretty… So pretty, and witty, and wise…

Up 14 Down 11

Mitch Holder on May 17, 2022 at 9:55 am

@ BnR - no, I was expressing sarcasm to illustrate how ridiculous some of the correlations are that are made for these types of events. Our clay deposits didn't collapse because India burns too much coal, they collapsed because of high snowfall. See the recent CBC North article on EV's and road taxes.

Up 35 Down 13

North_of_60 on May 16, 2022 at 5:29 pm

My Opinion totally nails it:
"If you had a miner as a Mayor they would be up there bringing down excess material and benching it to create catchment areas as they do in open pit mines all the time. But no we have a Lawyer as a Mayor, who through her experience sees everything as a risk of Lawsuit."

This whole fiasco exemplifies what happens when woke idiots elect people like Cabott, Silver, Hanley & Trudeau to rule our once proud territory as if the Yukon was their colony, and we are the obedient peasants.

Up 52 Down 6

COW Incompetence Shining Through on May 16, 2022 at 4:40 pm

Hey YG highways, the next time a slide or washout blocks a Yukon highway leave it completely untouched for a minimum 5 weeks before you open the road again. Let’s say it’s the road to Dawson or the Alaska highway and you announce that over a month will pass before you even start to repair it. Let us know how it goes when you do that!

Up 57 Down 8

Fringe Minority with Unacceptable Views on May 16, 2022 at 4:33 pm

You literally have our one road building company just up the road from the slide, with equipment that I bet is completely capable of moving the debris off the road in a safe manner. But yeah, let's get extra special equipment and pay even more while inflation rages everywhere increasing all costs. Such a splendid idea, I bet someone at the city is giving themselves a pat on the back for this one! All levels of government in this Territory are so inefficient and wasteful it's sad.

Up 36 Down 6

LabourDay ReopeningDate on May 16, 2022 at 4:29 pm

We are only one natural disaster away from complete and utter shutdown. Imagine if the bridge went out in Riverdale, Teslin or anywhere else isolating citizens. Anyone think that they put a wall and then the surrounding area becomes unstable and another slide takes place?

Strategic planning has gone really well in this city and territory. Regardless of your political stripe, where has all planning gone…. Anyone remember how long it took to get the jail built? Let’s hope the city has money in the budget for the wall?!…later to be known as walls.

While the city is concerned with where students can have safe places to go, paving intersections or building a new city hall the rest of the infrastructure rots. Don’t be surprised if this fiasco goes deep into the summer.

Up 13 Down 9

bonanzajoe on May 16, 2022 at 4:03 pm

My Opinion. As an old ex miner myself, I think your idea merits looking into.

Up 42 Down 5

Bandit on May 16, 2022 at 3:58 pm

I guess it's time to move the Pepsi Centre ball diamonds, and while we're at it, all of the Takhini Trailer court mobiles on the edge of the escarpment and let's not forget about the Downtown Urban Gardening Society, oops almost forgot about Gordie at Builders Supplyland, NIS, the Native cemetery beside NIS, we better move all of the houses along Alsek below the Grey Mountain road.
I remember, I believe it was in 1987 or 88 and I was still Trucking on the Alaska hwy. I came into J&H at Muncho lake and a tourist came in and said the Highway was washing out along Strawberry flats so I jumped in my truck and headed south, I went through the first torrent with water up to my fuel tanks all was good until the bottom of Petersen canyon just below the Village gas station and a slide came off the mountain covering the road for about 1/8 mile and 20 feet deep of boulders the size of a small car. I couldn't go forward or back to Muncho so there I sat. They brought equipment up from Ft. Nelson and although I was there for 14 hours with another Driver from Westcan the Highway was OPEN in 14 hours, that summer (that week) there were washouts all the way up the Highway into Alaska but it was only closed for about 3 days. Come on Whitehorse, we can do alot better.

Up 24 Down 10

Groucho d'North on May 16, 2022 at 3:46 pm

@ Mitch Holder
I am sceptical that carbon tax revenue is being used to offset climate change as it was promised. A few showcase projects like the four new windmills were probably funded by Carbon Tax revenue, but as there are few checks and balances on all the money that has been collected, I see lots of wiggle room for how the Federal Liberals can use this money. It's probably a good time to audit the Carbon Tax program and see how much has been collected and what has been done with it. Wealth redistribution to the third world is a component of the Climate Change action plan, so how much carbon tax revenue has Canada provided to other nations in this category?

Up 15 Down 12

BnR on May 16, 2022 at 2:08 pm

Mitch Holder, you’re, with a straight face, saying that if EV drivers burned file and paid road taxes this wouldn’t have happened? It’s the City of Whitehorse, our City taxes pay for this.
How about this; people who live outside of the City limits should pay a toll to use city roads so we have more money to maintain the roads?

Up 22 Down 35

Mitch Holder on May 16, 2022 at 11:06 am

As long as we are blaming everyone but ourselves (for not maintaining these slopes), I feel it is fair to point out that electric vehicles pay no road tax and their fuel is also not taxed, which means internal combustion engine vehicle operators are paying to subsidize them. If they paid their fair share, EV driver's would have prevented this slide from happening, because the taxation would have been available to maintain these cliffs.

Change my mind, passive progressives....

Up 53 Down 23

Mitch Holder on May 16, 2022 at 9:34 am

This just in! Whitehorse needs competent leadership from Anywhere...apply today, please, for the love of god?! We can offer:

zero doctors
zero housing
zero ambition

if you are related to someone in our government, but don't have the education, that's fine, we just import experts when our own so called "experts" aren't woke enough.

Up 32 Down 13

BnR on May 16, 2022 at 7:02 am

This is:
•a pain in the behind
•annoying as heck
However, if it was opened and a slide came down again, anyone caught in it would sue the living daylights out of the City
If you don’t think so, you’ve either got waaaaay more faith in the average citizen than I do or you’re being disingenuous.

Up 50 Down 19

iBrian on May 16, 2022 at 7:02 am

City people, this should be a flag for you. Your leaders live such sedated lives a small little slide and molehill into a mountain.
Doesn’t matter what direction you go, every road has washouts and slides in AK, YT and BC. None of them take weeks to clean up.
But hey “Climate Change” Global Warming, The Caribou, The Salmon, inclusiveness, respect for all but White Heterosexual males.
Just a small piece of the pie on why I HATE WHITEHORSE. Jim from Dawson isn’t alone.

Up 37 Down 17

Jeff Donaldson on May 15, 2022 at 3:07 pm

Ahhh BnR,
Nothing Random about it. Looks like a huge effort…. Hey, maybe some of those city planners have invested in the new Dairy Queen and the re-routing of traffic will improve their stocks…. Bah hahaha.
The use of initiative is obviously absent in this case. Those HardTickets that WORK for their living on short timelines using equipment, initiative and adapt and overcome would sort this issue out in short order.
I remember a time in Bosnia while working with a Battle Group in Banja Luka district a bridge washout cut a main route for the locals. In 12 hours some good old Canadian Paratroopers and Canadian Engineers from 2CER had the bridge sorted and route open.
Just takes a bit initiative and experience and the will to complete the MISSION.

Up 71 Down 17

My Opinion on May 15, 2022 at 2:42 pm

If you had a miner as a Mayor they would be up there bringing down excess material and benching it to create catchment areas as they do in open pit mines all the time. But no we have a Lawyer as a Mayor, who through her experience sees everything as a risk of Lawsuit. She only sees a need to mitigate through hiring outside engineers to take away personal responsibility. That is the difference between people that actually work and contribute to society and those that dither and ring their hands. Pitiful.

Up 53 Down 8

My Opinion on May 15, 2022 at 2:32 pm

They better think twice about the driving of sheet piles in that area until later in the summer. The vibration of that kind of shaking by the Pile driver could cause liquefaction of the waterlogged material causing a real problem. Go to a riverbank and jump up and down in the mud and see what happens.

Up 85 Down 12

My Opinion on May 15, 2022 at 4:35 am

They have massive slides on the TransCanada highway going through the Rockies all the time. The road will maybe be closed for a few hours. This is ridiculous. Now they were talking about bringing in specialized equipment. Sheet piles are driven by a device held by a crane. This is done all the time in Whitehorse. Right next-door to the Kentucky fried chicken sheet pile has been done several times by a local contractor. The yellow crane is still there. Why are we bringing people in from outside? We also have all of our local engineers were afraid to make decisions and we have to get consultants from outside. The Yukon has become a disgrace and everybody on Council has absolutely no experience.

Up 41 Down 5

CJ2 on May 14, 2022 at 10:29 pm

@Nathan Living, Aberfan is a bit of a stretch. That was a manmade pile, I believe, with lots of warning that was ignored, that it was unstable. There's no need to inflame the fears of this very timid, ineffectual, council. The escarpment has been remarkably stable, except for periods when humans interfered with it. It's been deforested, and at one time an access road climbed up it. I think we were about two years from starting to build housing up the slopes until this happened, and I'm not kidding about that. The official attitude towards the escarpment has gotten very casual.

Having said that, closing it for weeks now and weeks more to come seems unnecessary and could end up being more of a risk. But that's where we are in the risk-averse post-pandemic little pocket of the world.

It's seems wise to me if they also explore if there was something else out of the ordinary going on besides "climate change". Such as dumping snow up there, or maybe it would have been advisable to move snow from there. That doesn't seem to be one of the FAQs they claim to be hearing on the city Facebook page. I hope we're not locked into some "it's climate change end of story" endless loop. And I hope we get to hear whatever report comes out of their "investigations".

Up 12 Down 13

BnR on May 14, 2022 at 7:05 pm

Jeff Donaldson, your random use of capital letters has convinced me you know what you’re talking about.

Up 40 Down 7

Bruce Brown on May 14, 2022 at 6:13 pm

I don't know which one is worse, the blind leading morons or the morons leading the blind. there will always be more dirt higher up in that spot. If what you are saying is true the pounding machine will increase more movement and it will continue to fall, what is up does come down.

Up 33 Down 17

Josey Wales on May 14, 2022 at 5:26 pm

Gee...look at those very very brave civic wizards!
Putting their very lives at risk (with no hard hats or approved safety glasses) getting to ground zero of an existential geological danger zone...
For a photo op?

Probably too dangerous to have each media regurgitating figure heads hold their own microphone some other civic wizards thought?
The entire airport could come down on them, an expert might say...
Look forward to seeing an absolute abomination the civic wizards and their experts come up with to defeat...gravity...and organic erosion.

Is the river going to be closed for vessels next too, danger ya know? The sky is falling...
The turbidity of the water will kill all the salmon...
Charter a Sky Crane, remove all that dangerous dirt off the ice before it kills ALL life downstream!
Sorry folks, just after near three years of state propagated fear porn...?

Up 40 Down 9

Nathan Living on May 14, 2022 at 2:57 pm

Let's deal with the escarpment slide risk throughout the downtown area. No sugar coating and politics please.
We do not want a version of 'Aberfan" in Whitehorse.

Maybe the GY should get involved because council seems preoccupied with Inclusiveness etc.

Up 79 Down 23

Shovelling it… on May 14, 2022 at 10:41 am

Special equipment… LOL! What happened? Did the City not know that there are more than just snow-shovels?

Call in experts from outside the Yukon… LOL! Why didn’t they just consult with an Elder, members of the Rainbow/ Alphabet Group and go from there. They are providing excellent insights into our societal dysfunctions in other areas of expertise… Some tea, some bannock, some rainbow crosswalks, and a new tax and all is golden.

Up 43 Down 13

Jack on May 14, 2022 at 10:32 am

We're gonna have to relocate the whole city!

Up 54 Down 15

The Whitehorse Show on May 14, 2022 at 5:44 am

Traffic could and should have been moving through there over a week ago by simply using traffic controllers to keep an eye on things for safety. You don’t have to keep it closed, when your wall arrives do an advertised road closure again to complete the work.
Roughly a decade ago an entire extended hillside on the Dempster highway let loose and oozed down over the highway over the course of days and weeks. The road wasn’t closed after the first day, warning signage was installed and the flowing deep mud was simply monitored and cleaned off the road as needed.
In the real world you can’t close roads indefinitely for the quite common events like happened on Robert Service Way.

Up 53 Down 18

North_of_60 on May 13, 2022 at 10:41 pm

Three Weeks to Flatten the Curve.... Haven't we heard this before?

Up 61 Down 15

Dallas on May 13, 2022 at 6:55 pm

Downtown is turning into a sh**thole anyways only now there is only one way in and one way out.

Up 28 Down 17

bonanzajoe on May 13, 2022 at 5:40 pm

"Abbott said, they did consider triggering another slide to shake loose any dangerous material".
I think thats a good idea as well. Like I said yesterday, keep it closed until the job is done right.

Up 23 Down 18

bonanzajoe on May 13, 2022 at 5:28 pm

Must have read my comment 2 weeks ago about a wall. Nice they took my advice. Wall won't keep out illegals, but hopefully stop a major slide.

Up 41 Down 15

bonanzajoe on May 13, 2022 at 5:25 pm

"The slide took out the White Pass railway track". Come on, that happened in 1978.

Up 9 Down 20

Wilf Carter on May 13, 2022 at 5:16 pm

Finally as expected, answers from what was taking place.

Up 69 Down 20

Jeff Donaldson on May 13, 2022 at 5:02 pm

I bet if you hired some of those Dawson City Heavy Equipment land clearing Miners, it would be done in a day!

I didn’t say it first…. however, Whitehorse is a CLOWN TOWN!

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