Levels in the Southern Lakes upstream from our Whitehorse Rapids hydro facility can vary greatly from year to year, depending on winter snowfall, summer rain, and summer temperatures (which affect the amount of glacial melt in the area). A hot, rainy summer, especially if it follows a winter with heavy snowfall, can mean potential flooding of properties in low-lying areas near Marsh and Tagish Lakes.
Yukon Energy is often asked what we can do to help prevent flooding of people's properties in the high water level years. There is a misconception that if we would only let more water through our Whitehorse dam or our Lewes Lake gates, there wouldn't be a flooding problem.
The truth is that under our water license, we must have all our gates open no later than May 15 of each year. That means that we hold no water back during the summer months, and we have no ability to increase the water flow from the Southern Lakes.
However what we can do is share our information with local residents about what we expect summer water levels to be like each year. This will help people prepare their property for possible flooding in high water years.
Early in 2012, after taking into account the snow pack from the previous winter and Environment Canada's long range forecast, we expected levels to be on the high side but not unusually high. However recent rains and warm weather have prompted us to revise our forecast. We believe in the worst case scenario, levels could go as high as .3 of a metre (about a foot) from 2007 levels, which had some of the highest levels on record. Please see this chart for details.
We don't say this to cause panic. We merely want to arm people with information so they can best prepare their properties in whatever way they feel is necessary.
We will continue to update the chart throughout the summer and post it on this site.
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