Deer Lake -
It was one of a number of stops Nalcor Energy's Lower Churchill project representatives will make in the next few weeks to give the public an opportunity to see the plans.
From 4 until 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Deer Lake Motel, people from the community milled about a boardroom filled with presentations, maps and Nalcor representatives available to explain the Lower Churchill project.
Minutes after the open house began, about 20 people were already getting acquainted with the material and asking questions.
Dave Bursey, a helicopter pilot in the area, said the information was appealing to him both personally and professionally.
"I've involved in this type of industry for 30 years now. Deer Lake is a fairly strategic location for all this type of work. ... I have a general interest in this stuff. I think it's fascinating. People want to come and have an opportunity to come and look around," he said.
Gilbert Bennett, vice-president of the Lower Churchill project, said there were two objectives of the open house, one being to introduce people in the region to the project.
"Second is to give people an opportunity to identify concerns, questions, areas that they're interested in so that we can continue to use that information and feedback in the environmental assessment process," he said.
The environmental assessment is reviewing and planning process to identify the potential environmental and social effects of the proposed development project. The issues are then considered and incorporated into the planning and decision-making of the project, according to Nalcor.
"In general, we'd like people to understand how the environmental assessment process works, where are the opportunities for future public input and participation in the process," Bennett said.
He said recurring questions orbit topics such as the routing for the transmission lines and the selection corridor. The proposed transmission line is made up of 1,100 kilometres of overhead transmission lines - 400 in Labrador and 700 on the island. There is a two-kilometre-wide transmission study corridor identified where the eventual transmission line route will be 60 metres wide.
"Once they get past that, I've heard a general theme of support and understanding of the need for the project and why we're undertaking the link towards our long-term future," Bennett said.
Bennett said people are interested in the description of the project, the routing of the transmission lines and how it relates to their homes, property or place of business. The proposed study corridor appears to travel over Route 420 to Hampden as it comes down from the Northern Peninsula.
"We want to make sure the people understand why we're undertaking the project, its importance and some of the benefits of the project. We'll talk about employment opportunities, the construction effort, those kinds of things, as well as the long-term benefit of the project in terms of its integration into the power system," Bennett said.
According to Nalcor documents available at the open house, the estimated direct employment with the Lower Churchill project will peak at approximately 1,000 workers with 30 per cent working on the transmission line construction in Labrador, 55 per cent on the island and 15 per cent constructing the Strait of Belle Isle submarine cable crossings.
This is the energy company's first round of open houses corresponding to the Lower Churchill project, and there will be more in the future.
"Once we get into the environmental assessment process, the guidelines that are provided to us by the (provincial and federal) governments will give us pretty clear directions of where we need to have opportunities for consultations, open houses and public meetings. From our perspective, we want to get out early, ahead of those guidelines ... so we get as much information out as early as we can," Bennett said.
The open houses continue in Hawke's Bay Thursday, Flower's Cove Friday and L'Anse au Loup Saturday. Open houses will be in St. John's May 10 and Happy Valley-Goose Bay May 11.