Plans in place to protect large area of Yukon from unprecedented flooding

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WHITEHORSE —
Unseasonable heat and rapidly melting snowpacks in Yukon have combined to produce unprecedented flooding far worse the last major flood event, and emergency officials say it could be weeks before conditions improve.

The territory has offered an update on the high water that has affected about 200 properties in the Southern Lakes Region south of Whitehorse and the Lake Laberge area to the north.

Mila Milojevic with Yukon Energy, the territory’s primary electricity producer, says water levels are dropping at the dam at Marsh Lake used to manage downriver flows, but modelling suggests levels by August will still be 20 to 80 centimetres above the record floods of 2007.

Dryer, cooler conditions since June mean water levels are expected at the lower end of that scale, but Milojevic says glacial melt is still to come and that could add to the flood risk, especially if August is rainy.

Mark Hill, the liaison between Yukon’s Emergency Measures Office and flood managers, says the largest flood mitigation effort in Yukon’s history is underway as a state of emergency is in effect in the flood zones and evacuation orders and alerts are posted.

Hill says specialists from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, a contingent of 100 armed forces members and more than 300 Yukoners have filled more than one million sandbags since June and have built berms that emergency staff are confident will withstand any level of rising water.

“I don’t think it’s going to matter one way or the other,” Hill said in response to a question about damage if waters reach the highest predicted levels.

“Ultimately, we just build our berms to whatever height is necessary,” he said.

Most damage to properties so far has been from groundwater seepage, overwhelmed septic fields and flooded crawl spaces.

Hill says it’s too soon to assign a dollar figure to those losses.

Efforts are also focused on protecting roads, bridges and other infrastructure threatened by the high water around Carcross and Tagish in the Southern Lakes region and along several sections of Lake Laberge, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2021.

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