Federal agency warns of harm to caribou herd

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Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Says Muskrat Falls line project will have minor impact, but cumulative effects significant

— File photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has issued a warning of dangers faced by the Red Wine caribou herd, suggesting cumulative effects of industrial activity — including all parts of the Lower Churchill development — are placing the herd “under significant pressure.”

The warning came within a 113-page comprehensive study of the environmental review work completed for the Labrador-Island Transmission Link to date. The study was published online by the CEAA Thursday and copies can be made available upon request.

“While the (transmission line) project itself is likely to result in minor, adverse, but nonsignificant environmental effects on the Red Wine Mountains Herd, the herd continues to be under significant pressure when taking into account other projects and activities,” the report states.

“The (CEAA) therefore concludes that the project — when cumulative environmental effects are taken into account — is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Red Wine Mountains Herd, even if the project itself will only minimally contribute to these effects.”

The federal Department of Environment is asking for comments from the CEAA document, before the federal Environment minister decides whether or not the link project, on its own, will cause significant adverse environmental effects.

The CEAA report noted Nalcor Energy is already bringing in “extensive measures” to mitigate any negative effects on the province’s caribou herds.

Nalcor has previously stated the already-threatened Red Wine herd is expected to continue to decline in number, with or without the transmission line project. That statement echoes those made in a 2012 National Recovery Strategy for Woodland caribou, prepared under the Species at Risk Act, the CEAA notes.

Since 1989, the herd’s population dropped by about 85 per cent, leaving its total number today at 75 to 100 animals and falling.

As part of its findings relating to the Muskrat Falls project and other developments, the CEAA is recommending Nalcor take on followup work regarding the herd, including watching for off-road vehicle use in areas where the herd is active and monitoring caribou activity in the project area, with the monitoring plan approved by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

The Labrador-Island Link is estimated to take about five years to complete and the construction work will require creation of temporary construction camps, marshalling yards, laydown areas and new access roads — 160 kilometres in Central and Southeastern Labrador.

As for environmental assessment, the province has released the dam at Muskrat Falls, the Labrador-Island Link and the Maritime Link from further review.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: CEAA, Labrador-Island Transmission Link, Environmental Assessment Agency Department of Environment and Conservation.The Labrador Maritime Link

Geographic location: Red Wine

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  • H JEFFORD
    June 28, 2013 - 20:03

    If the transmission line project is going to threaten the caribou herd by having a large transmission line run all across the plains where the caribou feed, or trails they use to travel from one area to another, Then those trails that thousands of caribou use to travel on should be easy to locate, and the transmission line in that area should be put under ground in a large underground pipeline and the landscape should be restored to normal, the underground pipeline should be installed and the trees and grass should be replaced to normal and seeded to encourage the caribou to travel across them The caribou has survived the wolves, the hunting parties and the wolves, they will get use to the transmission line, with under ground passing areas where everything looks normal.

  • Jorge Blando
    June 28, 2013 - 16:07

    Gov't response to the Report of the Joint Review Panel for Nalcor Energy’s Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Generation Project. http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/Response_to_Panel_Report.pdf Recommendation 15.12 – Decommissioning The Panel recommends that Nalcor demonstrate, prior to Project approval and in a manner acceptable to both governments, how it will assume financial responsibility for the potential future decommissioning of the Project to ensure that decommissioning does not become a burden to future generations. Response: The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador does not accept this recommendation. Hydro generation is a renewable energy source and these facilities when maintained and refurbished, continue to function for hundreds of years. Should the operator of the generating plant at the time require refurbishment or remediation of the plant then it will be done in accordance with the laws of general application at that time. "when maintained and refurbished, continue to function for hundreds of years" New Brunswick is home to Canada’s oldest hydroelectric dam, the Milltown dam in St. Stephen, which began operation 130 years ago in 1881. Our government belives that these dams and turbines will still be relevant hundreds of years from now? "Should the operator of the generating plant at the time require..." I wonder who the operator will be....not Nalcor, if you read between the lines. Like any asset you can't afford, this will have to be sold down the line because we could never afford it in the first place. "in accordance with the laws of general application at that time" Let our children deal with it, seems to be the response.