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WHITEHORSE - In February, the Yukon Party called for the Liberal government to work with communities to prepare for this upcoming flood season. In addition, the party presented several community-based solutions to help prepare for any potential flooding this year in light of heavy snow this winter.
In response, the Minister of Community Services told media the situation was distinctly different from last year. He said the majority of the snow was concentrated in lowland areas where a lot of snow is very obvious to the public, and the alpine areas have seen less snow than last year. He also said the government was well prepared for flooding.
However, recent media reports indicate with a record snowpack in eight of 11 watersheds in the territory, a rapid snowmelt could potentially lead to widespread flooding. The report also said officials are watching ice conditions in Dawson City and Old Crow for the potential of high water affecting those two communities, and that flooding is already occurring on parts of the North Klondike Highway. Flooding on Takhini River Road is already affecting properties and buildings, and road access to several dozen homes.
“We brought the concerns and suggestions of Yukoners impacted by last year’s flooding to the attention of the government in February, and also during the spring sitting of the Legislative Assembly,” said Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers. “At that time, the Minister told Yukoners government was prepared. Yukoners want more information about what that actually means, and what the government will do in response to flooding.”
The government has outlined some measures. Those include the release of a flood map, the ordering of sandbags and conducting several community Zoom calls. However, the Yukon Party highlighted that better communication was a priority, and Yukoners need to hear a detailed plan and more information, rather than opaque assurances from the Minister that government is “ready”.
Actions suggested by the Yukon Party included setting aside an area in Whitehorse easily accessible for residents to help fill sandbags for transport where needed and identifying roads and other government infrastructure that would benefit from improvements early in the summer.
Property owners who want to do their own groundwork preparation need certainty that they are able to do so. The Liberals need to ensure there are no bureaucratic hurdles in the way as Yukoners prepare for a flood season that is rapidly approaching.
Proposed Yukon Party community-sourced flood preparation measures:
- Identify roads and other government infrastructure that would benefit from improvements early in the summer. This should include raising the level of Jackfish Bay Road, and work on South McClintock Road.
- Set aside an area in Whitehorse easily accessible for residents to help fill sandbags for transport where needed.
- Secure the appropriate amount of sandbags, sand, and equipment.
- Complete preventative groundwork in Southern Lakes and Lake Laberge area.
- Develop a plan to communicate flood information with local residents and all Yukoners.
- Work with the Yukon Energy Corporation on a response plan for YEC facilities in the Southern Lakes area.
- Engage with residents who were significantly affected in 2021 to advise them of preventative measures that could be taken.
- Provide an update on the status of any potential federal emergency funding applications on behalf of homeowners who suffered significant damage last summer.
- Work with members of Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (Yukon) and Yukon Energy to ensure that the floatplane maintenance bay on Schwatka Lake is useable in the event it is necessary to lower lake levels for flood mitigation.
- Commission an engineering study of flood mitigations and support the construction of a berm, or dyke, to be built along the river in Carmacks similar to that of Dawson City.
- Work with the Village of Teslin, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Town of Watson Lake, the Liard First Nation, Ross River residents, the Ross River Dena Council to determine what supports might be required for the upcoming flood season.
- Assessment of the Rock Creek area and mitigation efforts ahead of the upcoming flood season.
- Distribution of sand and sandbags to the community of Mayo in advance of flood season.
- Enable affected property owners to do their own preparation, including groundwork, with minimal red tape delays.