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Yukon Energy to keep stocking local waterways with chinook salmon

The company has applied to renew a water use licence for the 34-year-old fish hatchery on the Yukon River in Whitehorse.

Crown corporation has applied to renew water use licence for its Whitehorse fish hatchery

An underwater camera at the Whitehorse fish ladder and hatchery captures chinook salmon travelling by. (Yukon Energy)

The Yukon Energy Corporation (YEC) intends to keep stocking local waterways with juvenile chinook salmon. The Crown corporation has applied to renew its water use licence for its fish hatchery near the Whitehorse Rapids hydroelectric generating facility.

"It's not just about addressing the operational aspects of a hydro project — there is a real commitment and ethos around Yukon Energy around stewardship and doing the best that we can in the environments we do have an impact on," said Travis Ritchie, the company's manager of environment, assessment and licensing.

YEC began operating the fish hatchery in 1984, in response to federal requirements that the company mitigate the loss of migrating juvenile chinooks at its Whitehorse Rapids facility.

Ever since the dam was built in 1958, a certain percentage of migrating chinook fry have been killed in the dam's turbines and generating facilities.

YEC also built a 366-metre fish ladder from timber and reinforced concrete, to allow salmon migrating in the Yukon River to travel safely past the dam.

The water use licence is necessary to keep the hatchery going, Ritchie says.

"That allows us to use water and return water to the Yukon River, for the purposes of raising both chinook salmon as well as freshwater fish," he said.

Ever since the Whitehorse dam was built in 1958, a certain percentage of migrating chinook fry have been killed in the dam's turbines and generating facilities. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The Yukon government uses freshwater fish from the hatchery to stock some local pothole lakes.

Since 1984, an average of 150,000 juvenile chinook salmon fry are released each year into local waterways.

Yukon Energy also supports other organizations in local conservation of chinook salmon.

"We also work with the [Yukon] Fish and Game Association and do a fry release annually in Whitehorse at Wolf Creek — and so there's benefits beyond just putting fish in the creek. There's education and awareness and developing the conservation ethic with with young people and getting them involved," Richie said.

"So there are a lot of other great benefits that come from operating a facility like this."

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board is accepting public comments on the water use licence renewal until December 17.

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