North

Consultation begins on new Yukon hydroelectric dam

The Yukon Development Corporation was in Mayo and Dawson City this week, consulting with residents about a proposed new hydroelectric dam in the territory.

Ten potential sites under consideration, most in Liard, Stewart, and Pelly watersheds

The Whitehorse dam, which is a major source of electricity for the territory. Yukon Development Corporation officials are in Mayo and Dawson City this week, consulting with locals about the territory's next dam.

Consultations are underway for the location of a new hydroelectric dam in Yukon, as Yukon Development Corporation officials wrapped up a series of community meetings across the territory, in Mayo and Dawson City this week, to discuss the project. 

The Corporation has a list of ten potential sites for a new dam that could generate anywhere from 14 to 300 megawatts of power. Most of the sites are in the Stewart, Pelly and Liard river watersheds, and are close to existing roads or transmission lines. 

"We had some really great sites in Northern Yukon," says Lisa Badenhurst, the project director the Yukon Development Corporation. "But they're so far north that when you add in the transmission cost to bring the electricity down to the population, it's just so expensive.

"The idea was that if we continue to have legacy hydro available, then we can continue to have low electricity rates."

Officials say a new hydro dam is needed in the territory because electricity demand is forecast to grow by two-thirds over the next 50 years. Critics of the project want to see a focus on solar and wind power, as well as reduced energy demand.

However, Badenhurst says that the Yukon has already benefited from past hydro development, and that's why a new dam is being considered.

"We have some of the lowest electricity rates in the country, and that's because 20 years ago, people were building the Whitehorse, and the Aishihik, and even before then, building out the Mayo dams," she says.

Technical studies and consultations will continue throughout the summer and fall, and a business case is due by the end of the year. Consultants are also studying the feasibility of linking Yukon's electric grid to either Alaska or British Columbia.

Construction on a new hydro project isn't expected to begin for 10 to 15 years. 

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