Bird’s eye view of Muskrat Falls site work

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Nalcor will make presentation to government within weeks: Martin

Flying high by helicopter along the Churchill River towards Muskrat Falls, you can spot lines cutting through otherwise untouched sections of forest.

Dropping closer to the land, the lines gradually grow wider, until heavy equipment becomes easy to spot within them — workers creating a treeless path through the Labrador wilds.

Should the Lower Churchill development be ultimately sanctioned by Nalcor Energy and approved by government, this access road will be a main artery for contractors moving people and equipment to and from Muskrat Falls.

A clearing just off the emerging roadway, a campsite for contract workers should the project proceed, is also in development.

Down river, a similar clearing was created decades ago, in anticipation of the development of a hydro dam at the Gull Island site — a project that was not given a final green light.

Back at Nalcor’s office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Lower Churchill project leader Gilbert Bennett said contracts awarded to date on the present-day Lower Churchill plans cover the creation of the new road, as well as the building of communications infrastructure through Bell Aliant and a power line to supply dam site work.

“Work is valued at the tens of millions of dollars and it’s important though for us to get this work underway right now so when we do sanction the project we’re in a position that we can actually start work immediately and that we’re not waiting several months in order to start work at the site,” he said, explaining the work as a calculated risk.

Waiting on the prep would risk pushing back the overall schedule and, as a result, cost overruns.

“I think the most important thing is there is a tremendous amount of work that has been done in preparation for a sanction decision,” said Nalcor’s president and CEO, Ed Martin.

Martin said updated cost estimates for the overall project are in, following detailed engineering work on the proposed hydro dam and Labrador-island power transmission system.

“The fact of the matter is when we come forward with a recommendation in the coming weeks to the provincial government that we will have our homework done, it’ll be very detailed and we’ll be in a position to offer a recommendation.”

Meanwhile, Manitoba Hydro International is continuing its review of the project, he said, adding that review process is “about half way through.”

Martin said the Crown corporation continues to be open to questions in regards to the project.

Debate on the project is scheduled for the House of Assembly this fall.

Organizations: Bell Aliant, Manitoba Hydro International

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Churchill River, Gull Island Happy Valley Goose Bay Labrador-island

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Recent comments

  • Cold Future
    August 20, 2012 - 06:46

    Muskrat is a bad idea solely because of its excessive cost. It can be shown to be ecomonically viable at $3 billion, needs a lot of subsidy by NL ratepayers to ship power at discount ratse to mainland consumers at $6 billion. To consider building it at $9 billion would put a backbreaking burden on the NL consumer, and to consider it at that price borders on insanity. If it cannot be built and keep the rates in Newfoundland on a par with the Canadian average rates and inflation rates, it is time to stop the project. The money saved would be better spent on our crumbling infrastructure and the health care system. To build a project to provide power solely to outsiders at discount rates is a repeat of the Upper Churchill but 10 times the giveaway and unacceptable. Stop it now and take on less risky projects to supply domestic power when required and within acceptable economic parameters.

    August 19, 2012 - 21:38

    what is one of the cleanest, safest, most reliable,and cheapest power produced in the world? The Churchill Falls HYDRO. When Churchill plant came on stream, The force of water produced by the The churchill falls Will turn the the turbines creating power for as long as the old saying " AS LONG AS WATER RUNS & GRASS GROWS" It is the cleanest, safest, and cheapest source of power in the world, When the muskrat comes on stream, the Holyrood Power plant that burns Many Millions of dollars worth of oil per year, and is one of the worlds top ten worst air poluters can be closed, The save on the cost of oil wich will increase each year as oil supply is reduced,but the Churchill river runs on for ever.

    • Stanley Hopkins
      August 30, 2012 - 11:00

      The flooding of a huge section of land and the subsequent anaerobic decomposition of vegetation while underwater, will result in a spike in mercury and CO₂ levels for decades to come. Muskrat Falls is NOT green energy - it is merely a bad idea greenwashed with corporate misinformation.

  • Jack Barrett
    August 18, 2012 - 21:02

    The Muskrat Falls project will generate a surplus of 'green energy' and just as importantly it will provide an alternate power corridor to the lucrative US market without going through Quebec. That being said, massive work before the project is signed off, is presumptuous at best.

    • rog
      August 19, 2012 - 06:42

      we have to look at this province as a business....revenues are coming in now but will eventually dry up....if we want to just sit and suck our thumbs and curl our hair and spend all that we have coming in to this province and not plan for the future!!!....then just sit back and save your dollar, complain, snip and as the older fellow would say "chew the fat" and do nothing then please "SHUT UP" tired of hearing this crap. lets get along long enough to build something for the business we all have to take chances..."the time as come to either take control or cap in hand".....power to the people. Looks that the only people opposed to this project are the fitly rich.....get over it….we pay to much for gas, food, bldg supplies, and power...etc….. so it hard I know to get past ur nose but….extra power means possible new industry new opportunities for this province….if not just moth ball the entire province because we just didn’t take the chance and look to the future.

  • AvalonObserver
    August 18, 2012 - 14:34

    Well, doesn't that just tell us what a ridiculous sham these "feasibility studies" are? The Smell-a-Rat Falls project has obviously already been given an unconditional go-ahead by Dunderdolt and her fawning puppets. We have a bunch of crony capitalists just salivating over the billions they'll make at our expense. What a sellout-- how treacherous is that?

  • Graham
    August 18, 2012 - 11:09

    DEMOCRACY is DEAD. Bring on the next election so we can get rid of Kathy and her Clowns.

  • John Smith
    August 18, 2012 - 11:08

    The thing is that there will be a project at the lower churchill, at some time. Will it be the current project? We still don't know. However all the preengineering, the site prep, the surveying etc. all provides us with valuable information...the information the naysayers keep screaming that they can't get, or don't have enough of. They are so funny those naysayers...

  • Ray
    August 18, 2012 - 10:36

    I'm for the project, but I find it totally unacceptable that ANY work beyond feasibility/environmental impact assessments have taken place without getting public/government "sanction". Totally irresponsible and has lead further into the public's mistrust in Blunderdale and her "government" of sheep. If they continue to be a majority gov't (let alone government) after the next election I'll be semi-shocked. Lets face it, a lot of the voting public are ignorant

  • Maurice E. Adams
    August 18, 2012 - 07:49

    MHI's review is half way through? But the people and their representatives don't know what is being reviewed. What the costs, what the risks, are? Do we have a democracy? I guess not. We have government by proxy, government BY NALCOR. This project is FOR NACLOR --- paid for BY YOU, BY ME, BY OUR CHILDREN AND GRAND CHILDREN ---- for the next 50+ years.

  • Steve Winslow
    August 18, 2012 - 07:32

    Work is valued at "tens of millions"?! How many tens of millions. And this is before final budgets, design and sanction?! Who authorized these massive expenditures without oversight?