Skip to content

Teslin under flood warning after months of preparation, mayor says

Permanent berm project planned with Teslin Tlingit Council partially complete
A fox passes the sandbag berm set up on the shores of Teslin Lake in preparation for rising flood waters. (Lisa Dewhurst/Submitted)

A flood warning is now in effect for Teslin Lake, which is rising at 20 centimetres per day and shows no signs of stopping.

The flood warning, issued by the Yukon government on June 13, notes that low-lying areas near the lake are currently flooding. It goes on to state that there was significant rainfall in the Teslin Lake basin over the past 24 hours and there is still significant high-elevation snowpack driving the rising waters.

The 20 cm per day water level rise is expected to persist for the next five days and then slowly decline following the current rain event. The flood warning notice states the lake’s water level usually peaks in late June.

“Peak water level could exceed 687 meters above sea level, which would set a new record water level for Teslin Lake,” it states. The previous record was set in the 1960s.

Observing conditions similar to those that created high water last year, the Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council have been preparing for the rising water for months.

Teslin Mayor Gord Curran said they were expecting high water levels this summer that would at least be comparable to last year. He said rate of water level rise reached 26 cm per day last summer but passed 30 cm two days over the past week.

“We got hit hard with rain over the last couple of days,” Curran said.

He said there are currently seven homes in the Teslin area being protected with superbags (large sandbags) and pumps are running at two properties.

Curran said the village’s public works foreman and administration have been working with Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC) leadership on both temporary and permanent solutions to the rising water since February. He said they had hoped to start work on berms two months ago but funding was somewhat slow to arrive — money did come through in the form of cash to pay for engineering work furnished by the Yukon Government and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) funding that TTC was able to secure.

Although the berm-building project that the CIRNAC funding payed for got a later start than Curran and others in Teslin would have liked, the mayor said good progress has been made. One permanent berm is 80 per cent complete and the other is less than that. Due to the rising waters, he said they are unlikely to get finished anytime soon. The focus has shifted to temporary measures and Curran said 10,000 large “superbag” sandbags will be in place by the end of this week. Between 10 and 15,000 smaller sandbags are also in use.

Curran said that project is another good example of the strong working relationship between TTC and the Village of Teslin.

TTC and the village circulated a June 12 notice showing a map of properties that may have to evacuate if the water reaches the forecasted high point. Those who may be asked to leave are being asked to plan for the removal of any items that might cause environmental damage to the lake and anything of sentimental or monetary value.

Curran offered thanks to the village’s administration for the significant forethought they put into the flood mitigation works and for the local contractors and community members who have worked on building the temporary and permanent barriers.

“It’s a very resilient community. We found that out during the pandemic.”

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
Read more