A committee of Southern Lakes land owners is holding a series of public meetings about the changes that Yukon Energy wants to make to its water licence.
The utility is considering asking for permission to raise its full supply level by 30 centimetres, which would allow it to hold back water at its Marsh Lake control structure.
It might not sound like much, but raising up the limit by 30 centimetres would translate into 168 million cubic metres of water, which means a lot of electricity – enough to save about $2 million a year on diesel costs, the utility projects.
The plans are in the early stages. The utility hasn’t yet made applications to either the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board or the Yukon Water Board.
In fact, there’s still a chance that the changes won’t happen at all, said Janet Patterson, spokesperson for Yukon Energy.
Nevertheless, it is one of the options that the utility is exploring, and that has many property owners along the shores of the Southern Lakes region worried about the potential for increased shoreline erosion, groundwater contamination and possible degradation of wildlife habitat.
The Southern Lakes Water Level Committee was formed to address some of those concerns.
“The purpose of the committee is to raise awareness,” said Sue Greetham, one of its members. “We’re an independent committee at arm’s length, but we’re definitely the conduit between Yukon Energy and the community in defining and discussing the community’s feeling of the whole proposal.”
The committee has seven members. Each is a landowner from one of the communities that stand to be affected by the proposed changes to the water licence – Carcross, Tagish, Marsh Lake and Bennett Lake.
“We are somewhat stewards of the region and just want to make sure that there’s a very clear understanding of what’s proposed,” said Greetham. “We found that a lot of people have been confused with what’s under consideration.”
The committee held its first meeting in Carcross yesterday, which aimed to provide a basic overview of what’s being proposed.
The plan is to have a meeting each month for the next year that will be focused on different parts of the project.
At each meeting there will be presentations from experts and a chance for the public to ask questions about the proposal, said Greetham.
“There’s always a lot of concern about what might happen to their property, or to the birds, or to the fish,” she said. “We want to make sure that we understand what the concerns are and that those concerns are addressed.”
Yukon Energy has done a lot of work on this proposal, but there are still many unanswered questions, said Greetham.
“We have a master list we just put together ourselves in what has been done, what is to be done, so we’ve got some very good background information to get started,” she said.
At the end of the year-long process, the committee will put everything that it learned into a final report.
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