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Whitehorse prepares for high water levels

Emergency centre partially activated
The City of Whitehorse has closed two sections of trail running parallel to the Millennium Trail near the Selkirk Booster Station. (Courtesy/City of Whitehorse)

As efforts to deal with record-level flooding in the Southern Lakes continue, City of Whitehorse officials are preparing for the impacts of high water levels in the city and have closed two sections of pathway near the Millennium Trail.

At Whitehorse city council’s July 5 meeting, Coun. Dan Boyd asked for an update on the Whitehorse situation.

Acting City Manager Valerie Braga informed council that officials had partially activated the city’s emergency operations centre that morning to be ready if there is flooding. The city is in contact with the Yukon government and Yukon Energy and continuing to evaluate the situation, she said.

Staff are looking at low-lying areas in the city, such as Marwell, to evaluate where sandbagging may be required. They are also looking at the process and impact of declaring a state of emergency. Parks staff, Braga continued, are assessing assets along the Yukon River, such as the amenities around Schwatka Lake and trails.

Along with the Bert Law pedestrian bridge being closed last week due to rising water levels, the city also announced July 6 that two unpaved sections of the Millennium Trail along the river’s edge in Riverdale have been closed due to water levels and erosion of the bank.

The paved Millennium Trail is unaffected.

“The city is actively monitoring the situation and has placed signage, barricades and flagging tape at the affected sites,” notes the announcement. “Be advised that further closure may be required due to rising water levels.”

Under questioning by Boyd, Braga acknowledged there are differing opinions on how much water is expected to rise, but efforts are underway to confirm a more precise estimate with hydrologists from the Yukon government and Yukon Energy.

As Boyd pointed out, “We’ve got to prepare for all scenarios as best we can.”

While the city continues preparing to deal with high water levels in the Yukon River, the Whitehorse Fire Department is reminding residents of the dangers after two individuals were rescued from the river near Miles Canyon.

“With the current high flow and velocity reported through the Yukon River system, the risk of serious bodily harm or death is highly probable if caught up in the river while not properly prepared or protected,” states the fire department post.

Meanwhile, as flooding continues in the Southern Lakes, Braga said the city has provided some equipment to help, though Whitehorse can get the equipment back if needed. Braga also said the city is working with the Yukon government to make resources like the Robert Service Campground, Takhini Arena and other spaces available should they be needed to assist with the situation in the Southern Lakes. Military forces have been deployed to assist with the efforts.

Coun. Steve Roddick encouraged residents to help fill sandbags at any of the stations the Yukon government has set up in the Southern Lakes to protect structures.

“That will make a big difference,” he said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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