Kwanlin Dün First Nation proposes new Alaska Highway development

'This is our move toward long-term self-determination,' says Chief Doris Bill. 'In order for us to prosper we need to establish our rightful place in the Yukon economy.'

Public cardlock fuel station would be built on settlement lands near Whitehorse airport

Kwanlin Dün First Nation is proposing to build a public cardlock fuel station along the west side of the Alaska Highway, just south of Whitehorse Airport. (Alexandra Byers/CBC News)

Kwanlin Dün First Nation is proposing to build a new public cardlock fuel station on a parcel of settlement lands along the Alaska Highway, near the Whitehorse airport.

The development proposal for Lot 1252 is currently going through the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board's (YESAB) review process.

According to the proposal, the cardlock would be built on 3.2 hectares of land. The forested area would be cleared of trees and "less than 100,000 litres" of fuel would be stored in above ground containers. There would be space for truck parking and a large operations building would be built on the site. An access road would branch off the highway at kilometre 1423.

If approved, KDFN hopes to have the cardlock in operation by September 2018.

Concerns over environmental, community impact

At least two residents of the nearby Hillcrest neighbourhood have raised concerns since YESAB opened the proposal to public comments on Oct. 10.

Steve Reid lives near the proposed development in the Hillcrest neighbourhood. (Submitted by Steve Reid)

Resident Steve Reid is worried about the environmental impact of the project.

"(Any development) would need to offer a benefit to the local community that offsets what we're losing there," he said. "We're losing green space, we're potentially losing trail access, we're seeing an increase in noise pollution, in light pollution, and then the very real potential for chemical pollutants as well."

KDFN Chief Doris Bill says they are committed to addressing people's concerns.

"KDFN is committed to being a good neighbour, to being responsible stewards of the land," she said. "We recognize both the recreational, educational and environmental value of the nearby wetlands." 

At the request of "several members of the public" YESAB has extended the deadline for comments until Nov. 14.

'Our rightful place in the Yukon economy'

The cardlock would sit on a bigger parcel of land that had been set aside for commercial and residential development under the KDFN self-government agreement.

'We are committed to working with people on their concerns,' says Kwanlin Dün Chief Doris Bill. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Bill says they are taking a deliberate approach, but are excited by the project's potential.

"For Kwanlin Dün this is our move toward long-term self-determination. In order for us to prosper we need to establish our rightful place in the Yukon economy, and that's what we're doing."

Future economic potential

The cardlock would be run in partnership with Chieftain Energy LP, which is majority-owned by Air North.

Chieftain's president, Benjamin Ryan, says the amount of activity around the airport presents a real opportunity for development.

"I think there's all kinds of pent up demand for more services in that area," he said.

This is just step one of a gradual development of the KDFN land, says Chris Milner, executive director of the Chu Níikwän Development Corporation.

"I think people are looking for commercial opportunities along the highway. We're looking for quality development partners who are interested in food, fuel, accommodations," he said.

According to their proposal, "future higher end" development could happen as early as 2019.

About the Author

Alexandra Byers

Reporter, CBC North

Alexandra Byers is an award-winning journalist with CBC North in Whitehorse. Before she moved to Yukon, she freelanced as a journalist and videographer in Uganda. Prior to that she produced investigative and breaking news with the CBC News Investigative Unit and CBC News Network in Toronto.