NunatuKavut council challenges Muskrat Falls site work

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Nalcor Energy representative says aboriginal group is wrong in claiming wrongdoing

One of the photos included in the NunatuKavut Community Council’s photo gallery of Muskrat Falls preliminary work. The council says a helicopter was chartered to allow the aboriginal group a view of the work completed. — Photo courtesy of NunatuKavut Community Council

The NunatuKavut Community Council has accused Nalcor Energy of hiding the true extent of the on-site preliminary work for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

The work includes creation of a new access road to the proposed dam site, addition of a power line and communications infrastructure. It is valued in the tens of millions of dollars.

At a news conference held at the NunatuKavut Community Council offices in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, council president Todd Russell pointed to photos taken during a helicopter flight over the work area Friday, Sept. 28.

He said the pictures show Nalcor has downplayed the amount of work being done around Muskrat Falls and violated federal Fisheries and environment regulations.

Locked out

“We are locked out of the site, denied reports and our aboriginal fisheries guardians were barred from doing a site inspection. Government and Nalcor talk publicly about a project that is about to happen — little does anyone know that construction is proceeding at a very rapid pace behind these closed and guarded gates,” he stated.

Gilbert Bennett, Nalcor Energy vice-president and Lower Churchill project leader, said the Crown corporation has been consulting with aboriginal groups, including Nun­atu­Kavut, throughout the development of the project to date.

Documentation filed during the environmental assessment process for the dam show NunatuKavut would have been aware of the project timeline and construction plans.

“There are a variety of permits that are required for the preliminary work and we’ve got all of those permits,” Bennett told The Telegram late Tuesday afternoon. “Various aboriginal groups, including NunatuKavut, have been consulted on those applications.”

Reason for limitations on site access

In stating his position, Russell repeatedly referred to a guarded security gate on an access road to the worksite, saying it is a sign of an attempt to keep the extent of the work under wraps.

Asked about the point, Bennett said limiting access to the area is part of a larger safety protocol, standard for Nalcor sites. It includes, among other things, a requirement that anyone looking to enter the work area be briefed about potential safety hazards.

“At the end of the day, (the) safety of everybody on the site is of paramount concern for us,” Bennett said.

As for the preliminary work planned for the site, “we’re getting toward the end of the program.”

Further work awaits a “go or no” decision on the project by the provincial government.

The Muskrat Falls dam work has been released from the environmental assessment process. The Labrador-Island Link, the bulk of the transmission infrastructure connected with the Lower Churchill development, is still being assessed.

The NunatuKavut Community Council has previously voiced objection to the environmental review process as it stands and to the project as a whole.

As The Telegram reported in a story published Sept. 17, Russell has described himself as, “absolutely against this project,” explaining he sees no benefit for the Inuit-Métis people living in the area.

“We’re getting run over,” said Ken Mesher, an elder within the NunatuKavut community who spoke alongside the council president Tuesday.

“They’re coming in and invading our territory. It’s not right. … We’ve got to stand up, take a stand on what’s happening.”

Earlier this week, members of NunatuKavut set up a road “slow down” area, as opposed to a road block, along part of the Trans-Labrador Highway to draw attention to their objections to the project as it stands.

“We are looking at our legal options,” Russell confirmed Tuesday. “In terms of our on-the-ground action, I can only say to you it will probably become more intense and more direct.”

However, he has offered to sit down with Nalcor and the provincial government to work through the issues raised.

“We have an extensive record of consultation with NunatuKavut. We certainly want to keep the lines of communication open,” Bennett said.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: NunatuKavut Community Council, Nalcor Energy, The Telegram Trans-Labrador Highway

Geographic location: Goose Bay

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Recent comments

  • saelcove
    October 05, 2012 - 09:02

    Not to worry Danny boy will explain it and all will be fine, Stunderdale just does not have what it takes

  • adolphus bailey
    October 04, 2012 - 22:09

    The Native People of Labrador should have the say to anything going on. Remember you whites these people were here long before the whites arrived. Like the Native American Indians the Native Labradorians will eventually be forced to live in a small area with no land rights because of the whites interest in taking native lands away for their own PROFIT..

  • stephen
    October 03, 2012 - 17:25

    So sick of hearing thse whiners.Nfld and Labrador belongs to all Nfld and Labradorians,and we will all benefit from Muskrat Falls even those that don,t want to work.

  • John smith
    October 03, 2012 - 12:04

    Brad, when this deal was launched the mininig interests in Labrador were laying off people and shuttering operations. The world was in a huge recession, and no one was buying steel, not even the Chinese. So, as with most of your comments they have no basis in truth, and just add to the steaming pile of excrement that is the naysayer side of this debate.

    • William Damiels
      October 03, 2012 - 18:28

      Cabana is correct. Even one of your demi gods Wade Locke said today that the power was for the mining companies. Your synopsis on the mining interests is a load. How many lies have you told on here? Don't go away mad just ............

    • W McLean
      October 04, 2012 - 11:44

      In 2010?

    • John Smith
      October 04, 2012 - 15:19

      In 2009 Rio Tinto advised that they would not be going ahead with the multibillion dollar expansion of their mining operations in labrador...so to say that this was conceived in 2010 to appease the mining sector is ludicrous...as usual with Cabana...

  • Brad Cabana
    October 03, 2012 - 09:30

    The reason Nalcor is pushing forward the development on the ground and pressure on the politicians for a sanction vote, is that they must have the dam operational on schedule for the mining developments in Labrador. Pure and simple.

  • Tired if it
    October 03, 2012 - 06:41

    Just another attempt to grab more money that will dissapear withy no records.