Wheaton River Bridge repairs suspended in red tape
by John McHutchion
Yukon News reporter

The territorial government is "considering" rebuilding a washed-out bridge over the Wheaton River, said the Yukon government's director of transportation maintenance.

The bridge over the Wheaton River on the Annie Lake Road washed out in mid-June when high spring runoff destroyed the embankments.  "I don't want to say for sure that that bridge is going to go in by May 15 of next year, but what I can say is we're going to collect the data we need this fall to apply for the (water) licence," said Robert Magnuson. The Wheaton is popular with kayakers and canoeists because its modest rapids are ideal for beginners.The bridge also provided access for hikers.

The territorial government has earmarked about $5,000 of its Rural Roads Program budget to the transportation department so it can gather data on the river's high-water points, road grade and elevation leading to the washed bridge, said Magnuson. That information must be gathered because the Yukon Territory Water Board recently began demanding it prior to meeting requests for water licences. "Our intent is to collect that information this year, with that money that's been allocated, and then apply for the water licence over the winter," said Magnuson.

Actually, the Transportation department will need two water licences before beginning work on the Wheaton. The bridge that once spanned the river is now resting in the water 100 to 200 metres downstream. One water licence is necessary to haul the bridge out of the water to determine whether it is salvable. The second licence is necessary to re-erect the bridge in its original position. There were, in fact, two bridges over the Wheaton. Both were put in by a mining company when it was working in the area. One bridge rotted out, so a newer bridge was built right over top of it. The two bridges washed out together, but the newer one is the one the government hopes to salvage from the river bottom.

The company that built the bridges, BYG Natural Resources Inc., is currently tied up in receivership over its Mt. Nansen gold mine, so chances are remote that the bridges would get replaced privately. If the transportation department is awarded the water licences, then a group, such as the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club, or even the territorial government itself, must apply under the Rural Roads program to get the bridge rebuilt. Even if that application gets approved, the transportation department won't know until next year, when the territorial government tables its next budget, whether there will be money to rebuild the bridge.

1999 The Yukon News