Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for December 9, 2013

Partnership to ponder southeast hydroelectric project

A partnership has been formed to pursue the possibility of a hydroelectric project in the Watson Lake district.

By Chuck Tobin on December 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

TALKING HYDRO POWER – Larry Bagnell, chair of the Watson Lake Economic Revitalization Commission, speaks during Friday afternoonʼs news conference in Whitehorse. Seated at the table, left to right, are Chief Liard McMillan of the Liard First Nation; Watson Lake Mayor Richard Durocher; Dwight Redden, general manager of Yukon Electrical Co. Ltd.; and Alex Morrison, general manager of the Liard First Nation Development Corp.

A partnership has been formed to pursue the possibility of a hydroelectric project in the Watson Lake district.

With $100,000 in federal funding, the Town of Watson Lake, the Liard First Nation and Yukon Electrical Co. Ltd. have retained Access Consulting of Whitehorse to spearhead the initiative.

“This is an opportunity for us to look at an alternative fuel source,” Watson Lake Mayor Richard Durocher said late Friday afternoon at a press conference held to announce the project in Whitehorse.

“Watson Lake, throughout its whole history, has been on fossil fuels, that is 50 years, and I think it is time to look to alternative energy sources.”

Durocher emphasized his long-standing belief that the community must find new means of generating revenue, to relieve the rising pressure on municipal taxpayers.

The project’s intent is to identify sites within a 100-kilometre radius of the community that may be suitable for some type of hydroelectric facility, and how much electricity might be available from each site, the parties explained.

Both Durocher and Chief Liard McMillan of the Liard First Nation noted the partnership to pursue alternative energy arose out of a general co-operation agreement signed by the two leaders seven years ago.

Signing the agreement, said Durocher, was one of the most important things he has done as mayor.

“This is something that has been underway for quite a period of time,” McMillan said.

“It is the culmination of a long-lasting and very positive relationship with the Town of Watson Lake and its officials over many, many years.

“We are very excited to be here today to announce the start of looking at alternative energy for Watson Lake.”

The chief said the search for a renewable source of energy will not only be a benefit to the environment but will also create a pathway to economic development opportunities.

The press conference was hosted by Larry Bagnell, chair of the Watson Lake Economic Revitalization Commission.

Bagnell said the memorandum for understanding sets out the partnership for the purposes of completing the research. It does not address what a formal business arrangement might look like if a project does indeed go forward, he pointed out.

Bagnell described the partnership between the municipality, the First Nation and the private utility as a landmark agreement.

Also on hand for Friday’s announcement was Dwight Redden, Yukon Electrical’s general manager, Alex Morrison, general manager of the Liard First Nation Development Corp., and David Morrissette of Access Consulting.

Morrissette was congratulated for his involvement in the winning bid based on the request for proposals put together by Yukon Electrical on behalf of the group.

He explained in his experience working in Quebec, he has dealt with projects involving everything from half of a megawatt to thousands of megawatts – the hydro capacity at the Whitehorse Rapids Dam is 40 megawatts.

Morrissette said the parties will be in the field this week looking at different sites.

The project, however, is largely a desktop exercise to look at different water sources and their ability to sustain a hydro facility.

The goal is to have a general list of options by the end of March 2014.

“The study will examine the technical, commercial and financial viability of generating electricity through a hydro project located in close proximity to the Town of Watson Lake,” reads the press release issued Friday.

“Electricity produced from the project could serve the Town of Watson Lake and industrial customers in the area.”

The mayor explained in an interview last spring, for instance, that the nearby Liard Canyon on the Liard River is potentially a good candidate for a run-of-the-river type of hydro project, and is only just four kilometres from town.

Having a modest hydro facility would not only present Watson Lake residents with an alternative to heat their homes while reducing green house gas emissions, but it could become a substantial source of revenue for a small community, Durocher said back then.

Like many isolated communities in the Yukon, Watson Lake’s electricity is supplied by a diesel generating plant owned and operated by Yukon Electrical.

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