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Andrew Hall

Water storage decision expected next month

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.

By Chuck Tobin on July 27, 2020

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.

Comments (18)

Up 1 Down 0

Kaboom! on Aug 2, 2020 at 7:41 pm

With all the hydro potential we have as a resource in the Yukon I just can't believe that anyone would be suggesting Nuclear generation for power.
Build a dam with a pipeline to the Northwestern part of this continent and sell the water to a drought stricken area after it has generated much power for ourselves.

Up 9 Down 1

Obi on Aug 1, 2020 at 5:50 am

Dear Woodcutter,
I’m not suggesting a dam be built that will flood people’s homes, and they would have to move. The Yukon is blessed with many rivers that can be used for Hydroelectric generation, that will have little human impact.
If you’re concerned with squirrel’s homes, well........
The continued band aid approach to the Yukon’s long term power needs is a waste of time and money. Wind and Solar are small potatoes in the scheme of things, and that’s only when the sun shines, and the wind blows.

Up 14 Down 2

Nathan Living on Jul 31, 2020 at 4:38 pm

Yukon Energy is obtuse.

Go big and please stop championing these small projects with limited capacity.
Another hydroelectric program or move onto small scale nuclear.
Please stop trying to add another 2 or 3 percent capacity when we need far more to accommodate mining and winter peaks.

Up 9 Down 3

North_of_60 on Jul 31, 2020 at 4:02 pm

Anyone whose homes will be adversely affected didn't build to accommodate the natural changes in lake levels. The chart posted clearly shows that YE will be controlling levels within natural variations.

The govt can provide low interest loans and grants to upgrade properties to mitigate the adverse effects of natural water level changes.

Up 7 Down 3

Anie on Jul 31, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Woodcutter the proposed high water level is nowhere near the natural fluctuation, so if your home is going to flood, it's probably built too close to natural high water level, and probably not on your title/lease. I doubt that's the case. Also, those city folk pay for their power so get off your high horse.

Up 5 Down 0

Boyd Campbell on Jul 31, 2020 at 2:44 pm

@Woodcutter
I agree with you that there have been some poor installations and less than desired system designs in Yukon. If you're going to have one you have to get your head around what they will do and what they won't do. The learning curve here is not a few days or a week. Will they heat your home as a stand alone unit? No they won't. Will they work and produce heat in conjuction with another heat source? Yes they will. In Yukon they are a shoulder season heat source and they draw less power than baseboards or electric furnaces. I am still learning and experimenting but what I have seen so far the payback on my particular installation will be similar to the solar panel installations which are taking place at present. If you install a $30,000.00 new system fully contracted the payback will be much longer.

Up 7 Down 9

Woodcutter on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:09 am

Heat pumps are a failure in the yukon they are super expensive to install, buggy, expensive to operate, require tremendous amount of energy, the local contractors do a terrible job and the 5 heat pumps I've seen are a total flop, just imo from an operator's perspective. Give me a wood stove hrv with an electric duct heater, with electric base board heating system and cold day in hell.

@Obi, easy for you to talk, when it's not your home being flooded, so the mines can have cheap power, and the city slickers can have their Christmas lights.

Up 14 Down 2

Boyd Campbell on Jul 30, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Actually Wes I do know how they work as there is one sitting beside my house. Come over and have a look it's tied in with an electric furnace.

Up 4 Down 4

Wes on Jul 30, 2020 at 9:09 am

Boyd, you have no idea how a heat pump works do you?
LOL.....

Up 16 Down 4

Boyd Campbell on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:51 pm

@ Wes
Just a few words about heat pumps in Yukon. Heat pumps are a secondary source of heat which " maintain" temperature once that desired temp has been reached. Heat pumps do not " raise" temperature without the main source of heat giving it a hand. Heat pumps start to be effective when the outside temperature is -5 C and warmer. Running HP's at -20 is doing very little as the main heat source is also running in tandem with the HP and is doing all of the work. If you are running a wood stove which is supplying the winter heat your HP will be mostly idle during the cold months. HP's work effectively in shoulder season spring and fall when you don't require the wood stove and are designed to work with a constant temperature as opposed to fluctuating night time to daytime temperature. The problem with this is that HP's continuously cycle to maintain temperature at night so you don't have to worry about getting invited over by neighbors anymore as they will get a hate on for you very fast. You are running a large fan and it makes noise. LOL

Up 20 Down 3

Davis on Jul 29, 2020 at 9:13 am

It will be extremely disappointing if this is not approved. Practically speaking there doesn't seem to be a downside to approving this proposal. If it doesn't get approved the only possible reason could be political.
This is a good temporary solution but it is not a long term fix to Yukon's energy needs. I find it unacceptable that Yukon Energy doesn't seem to have done any long term planning for sustainable energy production over the last 20-30 years.

Up 19 Down 9

Wes on Jul 28, 2020 at 2:46 pm

Instead of YG paying for property owners to install PV systems that contribute less than 7% (average) to our power generation October to April, why not offer incentives for new builders to install heat pumps as primary heat. You'll still need a secondary source for when it gets really cold, but people are installing electric baseboard anyhow. Ductless, stand alone heat pumps can be retrofitted into existing homes which would contribute to demand reduction. All the PV incentive program is doing is giving some home owners cheap power while not really contributing in a meaningful way to the system. Its also subsidizing Solvest, so maybe thats good thing for its owners and employees.
Ultimately, YEC is going to have to get serious about further exploring non thermal power generation, and if that means nuclear or another large hydro project, so be it.

Up 36 Down 9

Obi on Jul 28, 2020 at 1:40 pm


Build a new dam in central Yukon, and move forward.

Up 29 Down 6

Resident on Jul 28, 2020 at 1:39 pm

Yukon Energy pushed electric heat for years to sell the glut of power leftover from the Faro shutdown. Don't blame homeowners for trying to heat their home with clean(er) energy.

Blame Yukon Energy and both the Yukon and Liberal governments for putting off this decision for literal decades. All three have known we would run out of power in ten years, ten years ago.

Up 32 Down 12

Peter on Jul 27, 2020 at 8:52 pm

Yukon energy in my opinion have made no effort to stem the use of electric heat by talking to the City of Whse, other Yukon communities and other YTG departments to limiting the installation and use of electric heat. Yes, maybe electric heat is efficient and maintenance free but the power grid and infrastructure cannot bear the load in the winter. We as Yukoner’s are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to power. In my opinion too many people are moving to the Yukon and our environment and infrastructure cannot sustain this growth. I have questioned YEC why they have not offered rebates for existing oil users to upgrade their oil tanks to new regulations and keep them from switching to electric heat. This in my opinion is the best investment that money can buy instead of these very expensive pipe dreams they have now. Has humans, we are going to destroy the Yukon eventually and the next few generations will suffer for it.

Up 18 Down 3

Klaus G. on Jul 27, 2020 at 4:40 pm

Does this have anything to do with that 1/2 million dollar shiny pamphlet campaign where they were asking for public permission to raise water levels to an amount that they were already licensed for?
What infrastructure was obtained with last rate hearing increase besides the small amount for repair at Aishihik?

Up 31 Down 10

Groucho d'North on Jul 27, 2020 at 3:43 pm

At best this is a temporary solution given that it will only "... provide enough additional hydro generation to power 500 homes..." How long will it take to build another 500 homes?
A recent story in the Star concluded with: "... officials issued 716 housing permits in April, May and June, or 22 per cent more than the 587 permits issued last year in the second quarter..." So it appears that this problem is not going away anytime soon.
What is the long term thinking? Is there any? Also being reported is the photovoltaic array project planned for north of Whitehorse which is expected to generate enough electricity to power 153 homes for a year.
That's not including any commercial or industrial development, just homes.
I'd very much like to see a legitimate case study on building a nuclear option here in the Yukon. Including all the pros & cons, costs, service life, jobs and the risk profiles too of course. The nuke option has been pushed into a corner for too long without an honest and complete assessment utilizing the newest technology - it's time to better understand what ALL our energy options really are.

Up 39 Down 7

BnR on Jul 27, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Why is this even being debated?
Of course YEC should be enhancing the storage capacity. We aren't doing anything to increase our renewable generation capacity (when it's needed).
Do it.
Period.

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