North

No plans to fix boat launch on Yukon's largest lake this year, gov't says

People wanting to launch their boats at Destruction Bay this year might be out of luck. Low water levels in Kluane Lake have made the Destruction Bay boat launch too shallow.

People in Destruction Bay are upset because the government won't dredge their shallow boat launch this year

The Yukon government says the Destruction Bay boat launch won't be dredged this year. The launch has been unusable because the water level on Kluane Lake has dropped in recent years. (John Ostashek)

The Yukon government says it won't dredge the Destruction Bay marina this year, frustrating local boaters and again forcing the cancellation of a popular summer fishing derby.

Low water levels in Kluane Lake have made the Destruction Bay boat launch too shallow to use. The lake began to drop two years ago after the Kaskawulsh Glacier retreated and its meltwater switched direction, away from Kluane Lake.

"What we need to ascertain is the long-term projections for what the lake levels are going to be," said John McGovern, Yukon's director of community services.

McGovern says if crews went ahead and dredged this spring, they might only provide a working boat launch for one season.

Calm waters on Kluane Lake. (Rick Smith)

"What we want to make sure of is, when we do build a new boat launch that it's going to be appropriate for what lake levels are projected for the next few decades."

Right now, the Destruction Bay launch is only half a metre deep in the summer.

No more fishing derby

Local resident John Ostashek, who is also a director with the Kluane Lake Athletic Association in Destruction Bay, is frustrated and feels his community is being ignored by the government. 

'Almost every other lake that has a highway beside it — whether or not there is a community — has government-maintained boat launches', said Destruction Bay resident John Ostashek. (John Ostashek)

"All we are looking for and asking for is the existing infrastructure to be maintained — which means dredging it out. Make it deep enough so you can put a boat in the water," Ostashek said.

The unusable boat launch means that for the second year in a row, there won't be a Kluane Lake Fishing Derby on the Canada Day weekend. Ostashek says the annual fishing derby has been the main source of fundraising for the Kluane Lake Athletic Association.

He also says there are safety concerns. He says if there were an accident on the lake, it will be hard for first responders to get onto the water.

"Destruction Bay is where the medical centre is, it's where the fire truck is, it's where the first responders who are volunteers live, in those communities of Burwash and Destruction Bay," said Ostashek.   

The only other boat launch on Kluane Lake is near Sheep Mountain, but Ostashek says it's also in bad shape. The government has said it will spend nearly $40,000 on that launch this year, to ensure it is usable.

​"Almost every other lake that has a highway beside it — whether or not there is a community — has government-maintained boat launches," he said.

"Kluane Lake, the largest lake in the Yukon, only has two boat launches on the entire lake — neither of which are serviceable at the moment."

The Yukon government says it won't do any work on the Destruction Bay boat launch until its analysis is complete. (John Ostashek )

About the Author

Mike Rudyk

Reporter, CBC Yukon

Mike Rudyk has worked for CBC Yukon since 1999, as a reporter and videographer. He lives in Whitehorse.

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