Canadian Forces deployed to Yukon to help with flood preparations

·4 min read
National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said over the weekend that Canadian Forces members were on their way to Yukon to assist with flood preparations, and shared this photo on Twitter. (Harjit Sajjan/Twitter - image credit)
National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said over the weekend that Canadian Forces members were on their way to Yukon to assist with flood preparations, and shared this photo on Twitter. (Harjit Sajjan/Twitter - image credit)

As water levels continue to rise in some Yukon lakes and rivers, members of the Canadian military are being sent in to assist.

"The Canadian military and rangers have been deployed to support the largest flood mitigation effort in the Yukon's history," tweeted Richard Mostyn, MLA for Whitehorse West, over the weekend.

A number of bodies of water are currently under either flood warnings or flood watches, including the Southern Lakes, Carmacks, Lake Laberge and the Yukon River.

You can find an up-to-date list of all warnings and advisories here.

A spokesperson for National Defence told CBC in an email there will be about 100 personnel in total sent to support flood relief efforts in Yukon. There are about 10 already on the ground, and another 45 scheduled to arrive later Monday. The rest are scheduled to arrive in the coming days.

The forces will help with tasks including filling and moving sandbags, doing welfare checks on residents and properties in areas affected by flooding and helping evacuate residents, the spokesperson said.

The forces were requested for a 14-day period, however, the situation will be "periodically reassessed and assistance adjusted as required."

Speaking on Yukon Morning on Monday, Mostyn said he spent Sunday visiting areas experiencing flooding, adding that water levels at Marsh, Tagish and Bennett lakes are already near or have surpassed 2007 flood levels — a year that caused widespread damage in the territory.

"It's like a disaster happening in slow motion," he told guest host Danielle d'Entremont.

"I toured Carcross, Tagish, all of the communities in Marsh Lake yesterday and they're very concerned and they have every right to be this concerned."

Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes MLA John Streicker also says that Lake Laberge has passed 2007 levels as of late on Sunday.

This weekend, Streicker also posted a video of himself wading into Marsh Lake up to his chin to demonstrate the high water levels.

Levels down at Teslin Lake

Mostyn says roughly 150 homes in the region are at risk of flooding, and sandbagging efforts are now happening around the clock.

Jeremy Jones lives on Lake Laberge and says his property has yet to be affected, but says his neighbours haven't been so lucky.

"That's their third layer of sandbags they've got in front of their greenhouse. And so there's two layers underneath the water right now," he told CBC News. "They just laid those sandbags on Wednesday."

There is one sliver of good news, Mostyn said, with water levels going down at Teslin Lake.

Teslin Lake had been under a flood watch, but that was downgraded to a high water advisory.

As for what's causing water levels to rise in the territory, meteorologist Lisa Erven with Environment and Climate Change Canada said the hot weather that has gripped much of Western Canada has a role to play.

"It's not just the daytime temperatures that are causing snowmelt and glacier melt, it's also the overnight temperatures," she told CBC News.

Resources needed

Brad Cathers, MLA for Lake Laberge, told Dave White, the host of CBC's Airplay, said now that waters have passed 2007 levels, property owners "are of course concerned."

He wasn't able to say how many properties have been impacted so far.

He says he appreciates that government staff and crews have been "working very hard" but added that as waters rise further, people on Laberge and Takhini and Yukon rivers are also in need more more resources."

Work to protect hydro plant

Meanwhile, Yukon Energy crews have been sandbagging areas around the Whitehorse hydro plant to protect infrastructure.

The corporation says a lot of water is being released through the spillway gates to try and lower water levels in Marsh Lake.

Andrew Hall, president of Yukon Energy, says crews are taking precautions against rising water.

"Our focus right now is moved to our hydro plant, we had to sandbag some of the doorways and some of the walls."

Hall says over the last few months Yukon Energy has lowered the water level of Schwatka Lake, to help pull more water from Marsh Lake. He says he doesn't believe any structures are currently at risk from high water on the Yukon River.

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