Liberal leadership billed it as “the most serious flaw in the Muskrat Falls project” Friday, but Nalcor vice-president Gilbert Bennett says they’ve studied the threat of icebergs, and it’s under control.
Dumaresque called the media to the Super 8 Hotel to say that Nalcor is “playing Russian roulette” with the Newfoundland and Labrador power supply by building a subsea cable through the Strait of Belle Isle.
“I grew up there in the Labrador straits, and of course, I saw thousands of icebergs,” he said, warning that if those icebergs scour the ocean floor where the cable is laid, there will be big trouble.
But Bennett said they’ve studied this in detail.
“There’s a shoal in the northeast end of the Strait of Belle Isle — it’s called the centre bank — with water depths of about 50 metres. So if an iceberg comes down that’s at that depth or greater, it will ground on that shoal and it will either break up or melt until it can come off that shoal,” he said. “If we stay below 70 metres, the cable will be well protected simply because of its depth under the water.”
Dumaresque has been an ardent critic of the Muskrat Falls project; he’s also a strong advocate for a road tunnel to Labrador as an alternative to the subsea cable.
But Bennett said the tunnel idea has been studied, and it would be more expensive and potentially not workable. He said geological study of the area showed several deep fissures in the rock would be majorly problematic to tunnel construction.
He said in the early stages of the Muskrat Falls development, Nalcor assigned teams to look at the two options and compare.
“We had a tunnel team and we had a seabed team,” he said.
“In every one of those major considerations — so, the technical feasibility, safety, cost certainty, schedule certainty, options in terms of mitigating things if something goes wrong and geological risk — the seabed won in every category.”