Majority of ‘gas tax’ fund in small communities spent on water, waste management

This post was originally published on link to post

The Yukon’s allocation of federal “gas tax” funding has grown to $18 million this year, with nearly $1 million already slotted for projects, according to the Yukon government.

Unincorporated communities will receive about $1 million of the fund.

“These funds are allocated to projects based on need,” said Bonnie Venton Ross, spokesperson for Community Services, in an email.

“To date, this has meant that essential services including potable water supply and delivery, wastewater treatment, and solid waste management have been the focus of most of the expenditures.”

This fiscal year, $55,000 will be spent on waste and recycling bins in communities; $400,000 will be spent on a sewage pit upgrade on the Dempster near Dawson; and $350,000 will be spent developing solid waste management plans for “various unincorporated communities.”

Yukon’s allocation of the gas tax, renamed the “Canada Community-Building Fund” (CCBF) in June 2021, has quadrupled from about $4.5 million in 2005. The money comes in twice a year, with a designated allocation to 23 entities.

Allocations are approximate to population — with 68 per cent to municipalities, 25 per cent slotted to 14 First Nation governments and seven per cent going to the 15 unincorporated communities.

Because several communities and First Nations overlap, some geographic populations enjoy multiple blocks of funding while others only dip into the pool of unincorporated funds.

In Yukon’s municipalities, the breadth of projects has been wide. Besides water system improvements, gazeboes, concession stands, and disc golf courses have been built. Trails have been upgraded in Haines Junction and Dawson City. Whitehorse has built their floatplane docks and laid new parking lots with this program funding stream.

In the less unorganized areas of the territory, the emphasis has been on safe drinking water, solid waste and sewage lagoons.

For Yukon’s unincorporated communities or unorganized areas (such as Carcross, Destruction Bay, Keno City, Marsh Lake, Tagish, Rock Creek, Johnson’s Crossing, Burwash, Pelly Crossing and Beaver Creek), the priorities and projects are selected and managed by the Yukon government’s department of Community Services. It is up to the department to select, identify and manage projects within the alotment targeted for “unincorporated communities.”

In an email on May 12, Venton Ross explained that “residents have venues to suggest project ideas and requests through their Local Advisory Councils or to the department during community tours or direct lines of communication. Requests are considered based on need and available funds.”

On May 10, Community Services provided the News with a list of project descriptions funded through the CCBF in unorganized Yukon from 2017 to 2023.

For the years 2017 to 2019, most of the projects fell into the categories of water, sewer and solid waste. Water treatment improvements in Rock Creek, Keno City, Tagish and Deep Creek totalled $1,18 million and various improvements to solid waste facilities came in over $2 million. An assessment on the Beaver Creek swimming pool was also undertaken, costing around $25,00.

For the years 2019 to 2021, projects varied from Marsh Lake and Carmacks sewage improvements that totalled $1.3 million; the purchase of 40-yard recycling bins for facilitation of regional recycling management came in at $150,000; and a governance options study for Carcross that came in at almost $40,000.

For the years 2021 to 2023, the large projects listed include the purchase of two new water trucks for $660,000, and three projects pertaining to the regionalization of solid waste management totalling $925,000, of which $700,000 is for planning and $225,000 for the purchase of solid waste compactors.

Lawrie Crawford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Yukon News