A new agreement reached between the City of Yellowknife, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), and the Government of Canada will allow Yellowknife residents continued public access to Great Slave Lake at the Giant Mine town site during cleanup at the former gold mine, the municipality announced Wednesday.
The GNWT will oversee maintenance and provide access and management of the town site, Yellowknife city clerk Debbie Gillard stated in a news release.
The announcement came in response to residents being concerned about deep water boat access.
The city stated that it has been working for more than two years with Crown and Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada as well as the GNWT to ensure continuous access during the Giant Mine remediation project, which is expected to span the next decade.
“We are really pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that ensures Yellowknifers will be able to access Great Slave Lake and maximize enjoyment of our spectacular boating season throughout remediation,” said Mayor Rebecca Alty.
Public access to the lake had been underscored as important by a Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board review, including that a condition be made in the water licence that the remediation must include a “public access plan.”
The plan would have to “identify how access to a public boat launch at the Giant Mine town site will be maintained at all times during the open-water season.”
The release states that “the GNWT and project team will be working with users of the area” so that remediation work can continue while access to the lake is maintained.
“This will enable the site to be remediated with the least possible impact to citizens,” the release reads.
Ben Russo, commodore of the Great Sailing Club, said he sees it as a positive development for all users of Back Bay.
“It is not quite news because we knew it was coming for a while from a meeting we had last December,” Russo said in regards to a meeting with the Giant Mine remediation team. “It is great news both for the survival of our club and for access to Back Bay for other boaters.”
Russo said that half the sailing club’s property is in the mine cleanup area and all waters will be remediated so there was legitimate concern about how the 87 boats in the club could operate out of the site.
“We really like that we get to see movement on this project,” he added.
Helmut Epp, president of the Yellowknife Historical Society, which is planning a mining heritage museum in the former dance hall on the town site, said that remediation won’t directly impact their lot. However, there are to be new leasing arrangements between his organization and the Department of Lands.
“What has happened is we are no longer going to be able to have a sub-lease agreement with the city, who then had a lease with the GNWT,” Epp explained, adding that the arrangement is expected to be finalized within the next week or two.
Traditionally, the Yellowknife Historical Society has had three-year sub-leases, which has meant greater uncertainty for renewal because of the short-term nature of the agreements, said Epp.
The new leasing agreements with the GNWT are expected to be 10-year arrangements, which will give the historical society greater stability when applying for federal funding.