The Yukon government’s decision to close the Silver City transfer station is “dumb,” says NDP leader Kate White.
“I don’t think it’s a decision grounded in reality,” White told the News over the phone on Sept. 6.
On Aug. 31, the Yukon government held a public meeting in Silver City to make a presentation about the possible closure of the station and talk with residents about their concerns.
It was the third of three public meetings the government scheduled to speak with residents about the possible closures of three transfer stations in three unincorporated communities. There was a meeting in Johnson’s Crossing on Aug. 29 and one in Braeburn on Aug. 30.
There is a proposal under review by the Yukon Socio-Economic Assessment Board about the operation of Silver City facilities, as well as those in Destruction Bay, Canyon Creek and Champagne. As part of the public comment period, the Yukon government was asked if it had worked with impacted communities. The government response was that it had, through the Association of Yukon Communities (AYC).
Ted Laking, AYC president, told the News on Sept. 7 that he only became aware of that when Silver City residents contacted him.
“We only represent municipalities and local advisory committees,” he said. “We did have engagement with the Government of Yukon on their plans for waste management, but we do not in any way represent the communities impacted by the closures … we didn’t think it was fair to put us in that position.”
White said the feeling among residents impacted by the closure in Silver City is that the decision has already been made.
The same Yukon government webpage that lists details for “engagement sessions” also acknowledges the changes will be challenging. It encourages residents to dispose of household waste at their nearest facility.
For those in Silver City, that’s the dump in Haines Junction, 60 kilometres away (there is also a transfer station in Destruction Bay, 50 kilometres in the opposite direction).
For those in Johnson’s Crossing, that’s 50 kilometres away in Teslin.
For residents of Braeburn, that’s the Deep Creek transfer station, 60 kilometres away.
“Closing the (Silver City) facility altogether and saying ‘you’re on your own’ is not an acceptable answer,” said White.
Silver City is right on Kluane Lake, at the edges of Kluane National Park and Reserve. White said there’s a huge number of wildlife encounters in that area. She said the transfer station, which has an electric fence and cattle guard, keeps wildlife from accessing garbage.
Before those measures were in place, she said many residents opted to burn their garbage rather than leave it at the unattended dumps that were the only other option.
White said that if rural Yukoners have to store garbage at their homes in between dump runs, it could lead to negative wildlife encounters.
“No one there wants to go back to a time when you had to shoot nuisance bears,” White said.
Suzanne Tremblay is one of them. Tremblay owns the Talbot Arm Motel in Destruction Bay and a property in Silver City that she’s trying to develop into a campground.
“We see bears on our property on a daily basis,” she told the News over the phone on Aug. 31. “I collect, minimum, two to four big bags per day from tourism garbage here at the lodge.”
“Our little transfer station at Silver City is impeccable. There’s just a few bins there. Everybody sorts their stuff, and then when they have bigger items like fridges, then they go to either Haines Junction or Destruction Bay. It’s really well-managed, at no cost to Yukon government.”
Tremblay said garbage trucks will continue to drive by Silver City anyway because they have to empty the bins at the transfer station in Destruction Bay.
“So Richard Mostyn (Minister of community services), in his enlightenment, thinks it’s a good idea to close Silver City and have the truck drive right by and then everybody from Silver City drive all over the place when the truck goes by anyway.”
She said it’s especially concerning going into winter when there are frequent road closures and slippery highways.
White said the Silver City meeting ended with Damian Burns, the assistant deputy minister of community development, asking residents to come up with proposals. She believes there’s a solution.
“There has to be a way for garbage to be stored and taken away from a site safely, and it can’t be sending individuals on a 120-kilometre round trip to do it,” White said.
The Yukon government did not make anyone available to speak with the News by press time. The mayor of Haines Junction was also unavailable by press time.
There will be online Zoom sessions for residents to share thoughts later this month. The Johnson’s Crossing meeting is Sept. 19 at 6 p.m., Braeburn is Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. and Silver City is Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. People can register to attend online at Yukon.ca.
By Amy Kenny, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 11, 2023 at 10:29