Construction of a dam at Muskrat Falls is one piece of the Muskrat Falls project. The project also includes building a new backbone line for power along much of the province and a power link between the island and Labrador, across the Strait of Belle Isle. - Telegram file photo
St. Anthony - Communities in the Labrador Straits and Northern Peninsula, fish harvesters in the Strait of Belle Isle and outfitters and tourism operators will all be affected in some way by the 1,100-kilometre stretch of transmission line Nalcor intends to construct over the next four years, according to an environmental impact statement released April 9.
The proposed transmission line from the Lower Churchill river to the Avalon Peninsula will cross the Strait of Belle Isle from Forteau to Shoal Cove East, where it will run through parts of the communities of Savage Cove-Sandy Cove, Nameless Cove and Flower's Cove.
Company studied potential effects
Nalcor says it studied the potential impacts on transportation, waste disposal, safety and security, health conditions, and community well-being, but that, "potential effects are not expected to be at a level that communities cannot handle."
The statement doesn't specify if communities will expected to manage effects nor how they will have to handle them.
The transmission line will also go underneath the Strait of Belle Isle, where fish harvesters catch lobster, scallops, caplin, herring and mackerel.
According to the statement, "Safety zones will be required during this period, but this will be limited to a small area and will only last about six months.
"Nalcor will commit to consult with fishers in the Strait of Belle Isle area and, where required, develop ways to offset any effects of the transmission project on resource users in the area."
The proposed transmission line will cross over close to 600 rivers and streams in Labrador and on the island - 586 to be exact.
"Twenty species of fish are known to occur within these rivers and streams. The highest numbers of species are within central and southeastern Labrador. The most common species recorded are brook trout and Atlantic salmon."
The statement also notes, "Along the Northern Peninsula, most river and stream crossings will occur in undeveloped areas including the upstream portions of the Main Brook watershed."
The company says it has planned the transmission project to "maximize the benefits and minimize harmful effects," although Ward Samson, of Main Brook, is worried the project will have a negative affect on wildlife in the Northern Peninsula.
Nalcor said in the statement, "Moose populations are increasing in the province, though there are fewer moose in Labrador than on the island."
Disagrees with moose assessment
"I don't see it. I was in the woods yesterday for 45 minutes on my Ski-Doo and didn't see one."
Samson said it is the worst year he's seen for the moose population in 25 years.
"The moose are just not there."
He is also worried that the transmission corridor will open up the natural habitat of caribou, which will be in greater danger from predator attacks, particularly from coyotes.
"You're going to open up a lot of territory."
Samson said he believes coyotes are becoming an even bigger problem with their larger-than -average weights.
He said he hasn't seen it, but he's been told they can take down caribou and eat them alive.
And the more potential food they have with the opening up of the corridors, the more young pups the coyotes will have, which will expand the population even further, he said.
A two-kilometre-wide corridor was studied for the line route, which overlaps 600 cabins, as well as provincial parks and trails, although Nalcor says it will avoid locations that include declining species of plants, such as Long's braya, which is found in the Straits.
The route will eventually be narrowed down to a 60-metre right of way.
The company said it has consulted with communities and the effects on fisheries and tourism are "expected to be small."
However, Samson said he sees little substance in terms of actually listening to community concerns.
"Nalcor is gonna happen anyway. We can complain all we want."
He said statements such as these are "window dressing" and they won't change anything.
"They say they're consulting, but they've already made the decision. The horse is gone and the door is shut."
He said he believes the project will be OK for the first three or four years for the local economy and employment, but he is worried what will happen after construction is complete.
He is also worried about how wildlife will react when the transmission corridors are opened up.
"Basically, the transmission corridor is going to make the area more accessible to hunters and more accessible to predators."
He agrees with outfitters in areas 40, 45 and 41, who are saying there are substantially fewer moose this year and that they must be managed more effectively by government.
The tourism industry will also be affected, although the corridor will not go through Gros Morne National Park or the HMS Raleigh shipwreck in the Strait of Belle Isle and it will "avoid known locations of historic and heritage resources."
However, the statement also says, "There may be some effect of the transmission project on tourism during operations and maintenance; this includes tourists viewing natural landscapes."
Nalcor also says it will avoid booking accommodations for its workers during tourist seasons in order to affect tourist operations as little as possible.