Fly-in fishing lodge owner seeks compensation for lost business during mine cleanup

Fly-in fishing lodge owner seeks compensation for lost business during mine cleanup

For $650 a day, Duncan Cooke offers fishing fanatics a pristine fly-in lake full of pike and trout "up to 56lbs."

Cooke says his remote fishing camp on Gordon Lake, N.W.T. — Sandy Point Lodge — is known for the "peace and quiet of the genuine northern wilderness."

But in court documents, Cooke says the federal government is putting that peace and quiet in jeopardy by remediating nine mine and exploration sites in the area.

He's asking the N.W.T Supreme Court to force the federal government to give him $700,000 for business he says he'll lose when it begins the cleanup.

The lawsuit stems from a water licence the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board granted the federal government to clean up the sites. During the application process, people and businesses who could be affected by the remediation were allowed to ask the board to grant them compensation.

On November 2, 2016, Cooke sent a letter to the board asking for close to $700,000 for business he says he'd lose because of the "nuisance and disturbance" the three-year remediation project would cause.

"The remediation work will have a negative impact on air quality, creating noise pollution, potential contamination and long term visual scars on the land that are not conducive to the promotion of tourism for a fly-in fishing lodge," Cooke wrote.

He also claims the remediation would mean the southern-half of Gordon Lake would be off limits for fishing because of "safety reasons" associated with the clean-up.

Feds claim cleanup could help

The federal government responded to that letter by saying its work would have very little impact on Cooke's business. It said most of the work would be done at the localized mine sites and would take place in the fall and winter months when Sandy Point Lodge is closed to visitors.

It also claimed the cleanup of sites around Gordon Lake would actually help Cooke's business. It says the remediation will "minimize human health risks and ensure environmental protection by mitigating the physical, chemical, and biological hazards that remain at the sites."

It also denies his claim that half of the lake would be unsafe to use.

In February, the MVLWB agreed with the federal government and denied Cooke any compensation.

Cooke is asking an N.W.T. Supreme Court justice to review the board's decision and overturn it. He says the board didn't properly consider his claim.

The board and the federal government have yet to submit any response to the court.

The case is set to go to court on May 5.