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Water over the bridge

Local resident upset by unsightly debris in Baker Creek

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 25/01) - Avid angler and outdoor enthusiast Mike Williams was appalled while driving past Baker Creek earlier this week.

Baker Creek is on Giant Mine property and winds its way along the road through the mine site.

Williams had first noticed the eight-foot (2.4-metre) wooden pilings scattered along the shore several days before, yet figured they would have been hauled out by now.

But after five days they were still there and, after making a few inquiries, he heard that Miramar Con Mine, which now owns the site, had bulldozed a bridge crossing the creek.

Williams and several of his friends could not understand why the pilings were left behind.

"The pilings could block up the culvert and wash out the road," Williams said, referring to the highway crossing the creek.

"It's unsafe for boaters out there. Who's to say they won't wash into the lake."

John Stard, general manager for Con and Giant mines, acknowledged that the bridge was removed last Friday in order to prevent water from overflowing into an open pit adjacent to the creek.

"I don't see any problem at all, we did the best we could," Stard said.

"If the water was restricted any further it would've went down the C-1 pit and we would've had a real problem on our hands," including the eventual flooding of the mine's underground, Stard said.

He said the timbers could remain in the creek for a month or more until water levels recede.

Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials went out to investigate the site Tuesday night and, when reached for comment, were ambivalent towards their findings.

They agreed that high water in the creek was likely turning the bridge into a potential flooding hazard, but were uncertain whether Miramar could have done a better job removing it.

"Well, I don't know," said Steve Harbicht, head of assessment and monitoring for Environment Canada NWT, when asked about the company's diligence in removing the bridge.

"From what I saw, it seemed they did a reasonable job, but I wasn't there when it was going on, so I can't comment on that."

Harbicht pointed out that water levels for the creek were the highest he had seen since 1991, and said that he was told by Miramar that the bridge would have likely washed away had they not removed it.

He said charges against Miramar under the Fisheries Act will not proceed providing the timbers are removed.

Ecology North, a non-governmental organization, also went out to investigate. Local environmentalist Chris O'Brien said that human fallibility can lead to less than perfect circumstances.

"It's hard to see what precautions could have been taken," said O'Brien. "But we assume from now on due care will be taken in these kind of operations."

For the time being, Williams is not amused.

"It looks gross," he said. "We're trying to bring tourists up here ... overall it's just ignorance on Miramar's behalf."