Photo by Photo Submitted
Photo by Photo Submitted
The board of directors of Yukon Energy is expected to announce a decision next month on whether to proceed with the Southern Lakes Enhanced Storage Project.
Yukon Energy president Andrew Hall said last Wednesday the Crown corporation has made a recommendation to the board.
Yukon Energy conducted extensive consultation with the public and specific stakeholders like First Nations last year and early this year that included an online survey.
The results of the consultation effort were summarized in a What We Heard document discussed by the board at its May and June meetings, Hall explained.
As a result of those discussions, he said, the board directed staff to touch base again with stakeholders, particularly First Nations.
“The board will be announcing a decision in August,” he said.
Hall said he believes the board has come a long way in figuring out what it wants to do but in the near term, it wants staff to reach out again to the stakeholders.
“We just want to make sure we go though the right steps,” he said.
If the board decides to proceed with the enhanced storage project, it would prompt a submission to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, followed by an application to the water board for an adjustment to its water licence.
The proposal to hold back high water in the Southern Lakes for a longer period in late summer and fall has been on the books for years.
Yukon Energy has held out the project as a cost-effective means of increasing the availability of hydro generation in the winter when there is much less water available.
The proposal has, however, received stiff opposition, especially from waterfront residents worried about additional shoreline erosion and the potential impact on their properties.
There is concern about the impact on Indigenous settlement land and wildlife habitat.
There’s an ongoing concern the additional storage would raise the ground water table that would negatively impact wells and septic field beds.
Some in opposition suggest Yukon Energy should focus – and should have been focusing all these years – its attention on the many other options to generate renewable energy, such as wind and solar.
All the concerns are laid out in the What We Heard document available online.
The document also lays out support for the project, which would reduce Yukon Energy’s reliance on diesel and natural gas for generation during high demand in winter months.
There are comments that Yukon Energy has bent over backwards through the years explaining the project.
They outlined how the corporation is prepared to put in additional measures to address negative impacts, such as implementing shoreline protection measures.
With climate change afoot, it’s time to recognize and accept the project will result in the necessary reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, supporters indicate in the What We Heard document.
The enhancement project makes sense financially and logistically, supporters maintain.
Yukon Energy has laid out plans to provide mitigation measures against shoreline erosion, as well as provide any assistance required with wells and septic fields, at an estimated cost of between $6 million and $7 million.
Currently, Yukon Energy is required to manage the lake level within a range in late summer and fall.
It’s seeking to increase the upper level of the range by 30 centimetres (12 inches).
It’s also looking to increase the lower range – how far it can draw down the lake in the winter – by 10 centimetres (four inches).
The Crown corporation has emphasized the additional 30 centimetres it’s seeking in the upper level of the range is still below the high water mark that Marsh Lake reaches naturally in the summer.
Yukon Energy maintains the enhancement project would provide enough additional hydro generation to power 500 homes. It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 3,100 tonnes annually while saving ratepayers about $1 million a year in diesel and natural gas costs.
The project, Yukon Energy has pointed out, does not require the corporation to install any new infrastructure, as the control gates are already in place near the Yukon River Bridge.
Yukon Energy estimates it has spent $9 million or more in the last 10 years on studies, project preparation and public engagement.
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