Crews face 'constant battle' with flood waters touching bottom of Carcross train bridge

·3 min read
Water is touching the bottom of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway bridge in Carcross, pictured on Sunday. (Jane Sponagle/CBC - image credit)
Water is touching the bottom of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway bridge in Carcross, pictured on Sunday. (Jane Sponagle/CBC - image credit)

As waters have risen in Yukon's Southern Lakes area over the past few weeks, some people have been keeping an eye on the White Pass and Yukon Route train bridge in Carcross.

It's a clear marker of how high the water has climbed — with water from the Nares River still touching the bottom of bridge, just below the tracks, according to Patrick Brown, the operations and maintenance manager with Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

Brown says it first started touching the bridge about a week and half ago.

Another person watching those levels at the bridge is Tyler Rose, the executive director at White Pass and Yukon Route based in Whitehorse. He says the bridge is continuously being monitored.

"It's a challenging condition for us all along Lake Bennett and in Carcross and the areas, as well as for everyone within the Southern Lakes district," Rose said on Tuesday.

Submitted by Jason Wolsky/Northern Drone Services
Submitted by Jason Wolsky/Northern Drone Services

Carcross has increasingly become a draw for tourists every summer, including cruise ship passengers coming through Skagway, Alaska. The White Pass and Yukon Route operates a scenic train service between Skagway and Carcross, and Rose says that rail line along Bennett Lake is also threatened by the rising water levels.

But when it comes to protecting the train bridge or rail line, Rose says there's "not a whole lot" that can be done in most of the locations until the waters subside, particularly at the bridge.

"It's kind of a constant battle. We've got great folks out there, watching it and … doing everything we can," Rose said.

Submitted by Jason Wolsky/Northern Drone Services
Submitted by Jason Wolsky/Northern Drone Services

He says they are not running passenger traffic on the train and that there are crews in the engineering division who are monitoring lake levels and general drainage.

Crews in Carcross are also involved in mitigation efforts led by Carcross/Tagish First Nation, with the incident team providing sandbags, sand and assessments as requested. The "superbag berm" has been completed, according to the territory. There is also pre-planning for erosion mitigation for Carcross and Tagish underway and an engineer is doing a bridge assessment there.

'Too early to say that we're past this'

There has been flooding similar to this year on Bennett Lake back in 2007, Rose said, though the lake is higher this year.

Submitted by Jason Wolsky/Northern Drone Services
Submitted by Jason Wolsky/Northern Drone Services

"This is the biggest that I've seen in recent memory," Rose said. "I think it's too early to say that we're past this as far as the rise … Bennett [Lake] has been going down the last few days. But looking ahead at the forecast, that may just be temporary. So it's definitely a concern."

He says there's also the hope that this year's flooding is an anomaly and not a regular occurrence, or else some larger changes would likely be needed.

Rose says amid the worries, it's uplifting to see the community teaming up to help where they can.

"It's nice to see you know, having been up there and look at those things, how many folks are volunteering and putting out sandbags and you know, really defending homes and property and everything," he said.

"It's nice to see everyone pitch in and contribute."

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