Yukon's hydro dam plans may harm salmon, says advisory group

Delegates at a Yukon River Panel meeting in Whitehorse this week urged Yukon officials to look at other energy options, since most of the new dam sites being considered are in salmon habitat.

5 of 6 possible new dam sites are in salmon spawning grounds, say officials

'We are in the business of salmon, and our bible is the Yukon River Salmon Agreement,' said Don Toews of the Yukon River Panel. (Yukon Salmon Sub-committee)

An international salmon advisory group is raising the red flag about several of the proposed sites for a new hydro dam in Yukon, saying salmon stocks will be affected.

The Yukon River Panel, which is meeting in Whitehorse this week, is urging Yukon to consider alternative solutions that won't violate an international agreement to protect habitat.

"Our bible is the Yukon River Salmon Agreement," said Yukon delegate Don Toews, referring to a 2001 Canada-U.S. treaty.

"There is a clause in there basically that says the parties agree that salmon should be afforded unrestricted access to and from, and the use of, existing migration spawning and rearing habitats."
Map of 6 possible hydroelectric dam sites in Yukon, analyzed by Midgard Consulting for the Yukon Development Corporation. The only one not likely to affect salmon habitat is on the Frances River, near Watson Lake. (Yukon Development Corporation)

The Yukon Development Corporation (YDC) is reviewing six possible sites for a new hydro dam. Five of those sites are in salmon spawning grounds.

"The only project that does not have salmon in it is the Frances River project — the False and Middle Canyon project," said Lisa Badenhorst of the YDC. 

Of the six possible projects, the Frances River option (near Watson Lake) was deemed the second most expensive, according to a consultant's report.

Other options

Emmie Fairclough, another Canadian delegate on the Yukon River Panel, urged the YDC to consider alternative energy projects. She reminded delegates of the impact the Whitehorse hydro dam had on local salmon stocks.
Emmie Fairclough reminded delegates of the impact the Whitehorse hydro dam had on local salmon stocks. (Facebook/Emmie Fairclough)

​"Don't get me wrong, I like flicking a switch in the morning and turning up my heat when it's cold, but we need to be really smart and look at every other option," Fairclough said.

Delegates were told that other options are being looked at. The YDC is also still in discussion with three First Nations who may be affected by any hydro plans — the Liard First Nation, the Nacho Nyäk Dun First Nation and the Ross River Dena Council. Badenhorst said the Selkirk First Nation is not interested in any hydro project on its territory.


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