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First Nations approve hydro line proposal

The Yukon Energy Corporation has a new memorandum of understanding with Yukon First Nations to build a hydroelectric transmission line between…

The Yukon Energy Corporation has a new memorandum of understanding with Yukon First Nations to build a hydroelectric transmission line between Carmacks and Stewart Crossing.

Three Northern Tutchone First Nations — Selkirk, Little Salmon/Carmacks and Na-Cho Nyak Dun — signed the agreement to establish rules for construction of a transmission line connecting the Whitehorse power grid to the Mayo-Dawson City grid.

“By going down the highway between Carmacks and Stewart Crossing, we go through parcels of settlement land, and we want to make sure we’re working with the three First Nations,” said Yukon Energy president and CEO David Morrison.

“There are some real benefits, long term, for having these systems connected.”

A tie-in between the two grids would power nearby communities, such as Pelly Crossing, that have traditionally burned diesel fuel as their power source.

And the two mines close to the proposed route that are nearing production would use most of the surplus power currently being generated on both grids, said Morrison.

There is enough surplus energy available to power both mines and the affected communities, he said.

The Minto project, owned by Sherwood Copper Corp., plans to be in production by spring 2007.

It will need about three megawatts of power, said Morrison.

The Carmacks Copper project, owned by Western Copper Corp., will need 10 megawatts, he said.

“They’re hoping to be in production by third quarter 2008,” said Morrison.

And that’s when Yukon Energy hopes to have the Carmacks-Stewart line built.

The project would be built in two phases — first from Carmacks, where the Whitehorse power grid currently extends, to Pelly Crossing, and then from Pelly to Stewart in 2008.

But there are a lot of hoops to jump through first.

The proposed power line corridor would have minimal environmental and socioeconomic impact, since it would involve clearing trees and putting up poles and wires.

But the proposal still needs the approval of the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board, as well as the Yukon Utilities Board, said Morrison.

Yukon Energy has a lot of work to do, if it wants regulatory approval in place in time to begin construction of the Carmacks-Pelly portion in spring 2007, he said.

There’s also a lot of money to be raised.

The project will cost about $31 million, Morrison speculated.

Anywhere from $5 million to $15 million of that would have to come from the Yukon government, he said.

There several possible sources for the remainder, but the mining companies will likely have to chip in some of the construction costs, he added.

“We see the mines making a contribution as well.

“We haven’t signed any agreements, but they are aware of what our thoughts are on cost.”

If the companies become clients of the Yukon Electric Company, energy rates for Yukoners should not go up to cover the cost of constructing the line, added Morrison.

Sherwood Copper signed a letter of intent with Yukon Energy in April, promising to buy power once it becomes available on the proposed Carmacks-Stewart line.