Pencil sharpening warranted

There is evidence the Yukon Energy Corporation has hit a snag in developing its 98-kilometre-long grid extension from Carmacks to Pelly Crossing.

There is evidence the Yukon Energy Corporation has hit a snag in developing its 98-kilometre-long grid extension from Carmacks to Pelly Crossing.

The Crown-owned utility was to have pinned down the cost of the project a couple of weeks ago.

But that hasn’t happened yet.

On May 24 and 25th, the utility’s eight-person board met in Whitehorse.

Instead of approving the cost estimate, it asked Wardrop Engineering, the firm pulling together the preliminary cost estimates, to gather more information.

That alone suggests the costs might be pushing the high-end ballpark estimate of $25.9 million the utility presented to the Yukon Utilities Board in April.

As well, the utility has informed Sherwood Copper, the mining company that will profit from the cheaper hydroelectric power the line provides, that it believes there is room to cut the costs from what its consultants provided.

Again, there would be no reason to cut costs unless they were significantly higher than initially thought.

The board’s apparent caution in nailing down the costs of this project is a good thing.

After the Mayo-to-Dawson debacle, Yukoners know all too well what happens when power lines are rushed.

Keeping costs down is important, notes the Yukon Utility Board in its review of the Carmacks-Stewart transmission project, which it prepared for Justice Minister Marian Horne.

It has recommended the utility consult with politicians before proceeding with the project if its capital costs exceed $25.9 million.

Or if scheduling delays push the date the line powers up past the end of 2008.

Costs in excess of $22.6 million will probably be borne by ratepayers, said the utility.

If costs are kept down, and Sherwood’s copper mine keeps operating for a few years, the risk to ratepayers is relatively low.

But as costs rise, the benefits to the mine begin to waver and the risk for the electrical ratepayers rises.

So, the utility must pin down the costs of the project quickly, so as to not jeopardize its late 2008 completion date.

As well, it should publicize the estimated costs once they are known.

The utility clearly wants this project.

But the Yukon Utilities Board has signaled that it is not in the territory’s best interest at any cost.

And the utility must go a long way to restore its credibility. It doesn’t have a good track record on these things.

The Mayo-Dawson line was $7 million over budget, according to federal auditor general Sheila Fraser.

So ratepayers have a right to demand a clear cost estimate prior to the project proceeding. (RM).

GOVERNMENT@WORK

Thoughts of a liquor minister

Liquor Minister Jim Kenyon is at it again.

Last year, Kenyon and his team handed out expensive shaving kits, including moist wipes, to fight drunk driving.

Well, it has been almost a year.

And, right on time, we received another doozy from Kenyon’s liquor corporation this week.

Its title: The More You Drink, The Less You Think.

Here it is again: The… More… You… Drink, The… Less… You… Think.

Got it?

The release, no doubt penned by a communications expert earning more than $60,000 a year, announced a new campaign encouraging folks to drink in moderation.

“If you drink too much you could end up doing something that makes you look and feel very foolish,” said Kenyon in his release.

Hmmm. (RM)

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