Southern Lakes residents to discuss water level woes

The Southern Lakes Water Level Committee will host a meeting next week in Tagish to talk about erosion. The public meeting is one in a series to deal with local concerns regarding a Yukon Energy plan.

The Southern Lakes Water Level Committee will host a meeting next week in Tagish to talk about erosion.

The public meeting is one in a series to deal with local concerns regarding a Yukon Energy plan to slow the draining of the Southern Lakes in the fall to save more water for hydro power in the winter months.

Local residents are concerned about potential effects to their properties, wildlife and the environment.

“When we had a natural flood in 2007, it was a wake-up call to high water,” said Sue Greetham, who is helping to organize the meeting. “And therefore people have been watching and documenting a lot of high-water issues. Because the concept is to increase the height and increase the time in the fall, a few flags pop up to people that, ‘Oh my gosh, if it gets held longer, at that time of the year, and doesn’t drain?’ There are concerns.”

The plan is in very early stages, said Janet Patterson, spokesperson for Yukon Energy.

The corporation is still trying to collect the information to see if it is even worth pursuing, she said.

But if the change is made, it could save the territory 2.1 million litres of diesel fuel annually, according to a video about the project posted on Yukon Energy’s website.

Record floods in 2007 damaged at least 54 Southern Lakes homes, particularly in Marsh Lake.

But Yukon Energy’s plan won’t change the flooding risk in the area.

Under the water licence, all the gates at the Lewes control structure must be open from May 15 through August 15.

Water levels during those months are affected primarily by melting snow and rainfall.

If the project goes forward, Yukon Energy will raise the water level at which they are permitted to start holding back water.

Currently, that level is 656.23 metres above sea level, and that would go up to 656.53, a difference of 30 centimetres.

Water climbed as high as 657.5 metres in 2007.

While Yukon Energy’s plan to hold back more water in the fall won’t cause water levels to rise higher than they would otherwise, it could speed erosion along the shorelines.

That area of concern is the specific topic of next week’s meeting.

Mike Miles, a fluvial geomorphologist – that’s “a fancy word for someone who works on water and rivers,” he said – from Victoria, B.C., will facilitate the discussion.

He is an expert on the topic who has worked in the Yukon.

Southern Lakes residents are asked to bring, if they like, one to three pictures of their particular shore front as well as a one-page writeup of any specific descriptions, questions or concerns.

That information will be compiled and will inform Yukon Energy’s work on the project, said Greetham.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the Tagish Community Centre.

Detailed information about the project, including baseline environmental reports, are available on the Yukon Energy website.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com