Nalcor bedevilled by unwelcome visitors

Michael Johansen
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My, what noisy neighbours I have! I want to complain, but I don’t think it would do any good.

These neighbours are new. They only moved in a couple of years ago, but it didn’t take them long to spoil everyone’s peace and quiet.

Before they arrived the neighbourhood was just about perfect. Except for the sound of vehicles driving along nearby roads and sometimes for the roar of a generator or chainsaw, there was hardly any artificial noise anywhere.

You could hear wind in the trees, birds on the wing, water falling down steep rocks — beautiful, calming sounds.

The new neighbours changed everything. They’re building something big on the other side of those hills and they’re building it all the time. Even before they got any permits they started blasting giant holes out of the ground.

Day and night without warning they’d suddenly set off another explosion and shake the earth in all directions.

Then they brought in humongous machines to start moving all the rock they broke from the hills: day and night. These people have no respect for the clock, or for how they might be disturbing the older residents in their vicinity — not just humans, but also wildlife, which suffer from the noise pollution more because they understand it less.

I’d complain, but that’s not so easy because these neighbours are already aware of the noise they’re making and every law in the land lets them make it.

All they had to do to secure this legal amnesty was to admit they had a problem and then (in the case of humans) to imply through silence that no fix is necessary and (in the case of wildlife) to simplistically claim the problem will repair itself.

“Of the 22 cabins identified along the lower Churchill River, 12 cabins will be permanently affected by the creation of the reservoir. Depending on their location, the other 10 cabins may be affected by noise during construction,” reads Nalcor’s “plain language summary” of the plan to build an as-yet undeclared number of dams in the hitherto near-pristine wilderness west of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

“Animals will temporarily move away from the noise and presence of people at construction sites but will return once construction is completed.”

So, issue identified and summarily dismissed, which means there’s no point in complaining about it.

However, there seems to be nothing in Nalcor’s government-granted carte blanche that deals with light pollution. Nalcor forgot to mention that it would need to flood the night sky with enough candlepower to bounce the glare off the moon.

That much light not only blankets the starscape, but disrupts life in the surrounding forest. Since Nalcor is apparently oblivious to the problem, the company would obviously benefit from a visit, during which I could point out the error of Nalcor’s ways and politely ask the company to turn off the lights once in a while.

But how to visit? Nalcor is not a very welcoming neighbour. The front door is barred to any “unauthorized personnel.”

In fact, Nalcor took a whole forestry road built with public money and, without sanction, declared it private property.

They even had criminal charges laid against local men for merely walking on it.

Fortunately, other local people who have complaints against this bad neighbour are using another road that leads to another way in, one not barred by overpaid ($45 per hour) security guards. The unauthorized visitors are using the river itself. Nalcor has not yet been able to forbid people from travelling on public waterways, and neither has the company yet built a fence along the riverbank, so more and more neighbours have been dropping in to wander unescorted around one of the biggest holes Labrador has ever known.

So far, they’ve not encountered anyone important enough to take note of their complaints, but they’re certainly getting attention.

As soon as an unhelmeted and unsafety-vested visitor appears, the whole excavation site gets shut down for the balance of a day.

The result?

One visitor was told he cost Nalcor around $1.5 million, but as others remarked, the company has got it wrong: the visitors are not wasting the money for Nalcor, they’re saving it for taxpayers.

Michael Johansen is a writer living

in Labrador.

Geographic location: Churchill River, Happy Valley, Goose Bay

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Recent comments

  • Scooby Doo
    July 25, 2013 - 11:05

    Muskrat Falls is another prime example of Newfoundlander & Labradorian's hard-headed nature & dogged determination to complain about everything & anything! When they have-not they complain & when they get something shiny and new they just complain more about how they got it. As for the town being ruined by workers that statement couldn't be more false. The shabby so-called "town" is an isolated & grossly overpriced bubble existing at the end of a desolate poorly maintained goat trail. The only thing that really needs fixing in this whole situation is the mentality of those who refuse to move into the 21st century and understand that progress and expansion is a costly thing. Cheese with that whine???

  • Lucien Beauregard
    July 22, 2013 - 14:13

    How much will be the the cost of Muskratt Falls Project ? One , two, three billions...five billions ? How much will Newfounland & Labrador loose if Quebec Superior Court deny to CFLCo the right to change pricing inserted in the Upper Churchill Power Contract ? 10, 20 30 billions ? I believe Newfoundlanders should spent more time to plan what should be done to make sure that CFLCo will win the trial ! Trial will start on September 9th, 2013

  • BS Skinner
    July 21, 2013 - 23:09

    68% of the smog cloud over C.B.S is from human combustible conveyance according to a poster at the post office asking us to all car pool. John Smith is angry at this bush hippy in Labrador for speaking about his experience? Get real. Nalcor wouldn't give ye a few parcipascrubberydubbery devices from $800 Million (2011 dollars?, probably 2 Billion now!). Ye still got to run the black smoke monster in holyrood until the power is online. Oh, and in a very short time, very short, Nalcor will begin construction on a grounding station out in da bay. Shouldn't we be hating Quebec for strangling us instead of fighting amonst ourselves over who gets the worst pile driving from our Atlantic Canadian ruling class's meatpuppets, that we seem to think have our back. When Petty Hr station penstock went dry in the '20s, townies had just gotten used to power, but they had the sense to understand watersheds. We need jobs and I could have made money from cleaning up holyrood for the short term. Labrador indians have the same chance as Brazil indians do at stopping this. Look at the loans going round - Vale to Brazil to build a dam, Canada to Vale to build a hydroponic plant. Utter foolishness, or just inflating person-years employment, siphoning contracts? These jobsites have 1000 people watching 100 get the thing done. It will take decade to get online.

  • John Smith
    July 21, 2013 - 09:10

    Well, Mr. Johansen, you won't have to deal with this for very long, as the building phase will only take a few more years. Now if they had built a coal fired, or an oil fired generator there...then you would have an environmental nightmare. Like the smoke belching dinosaur in Holyrood. No, Mr. Johansen, you can rest assured that in a very short time the silence and pristine beauty you mention will once again be yours to enjoy. Oh, and in a very short time, all the protests, and all the people who make their livings opposing this great project will be rendered moot, as the day of first power nears.This is a well thought out, intelligent answer to our coming energy needs, it will be great for our province and the whole of atlantic Canada. They have yet to find a way to generate power from rainbows and butterflies Mr. Johansen...but this is pretty darn close...

  • Bullion Cube
    July 20, 2013 - 20:04

    This town is being destroyed by the development and all the workers from out of province that have flooded the area. It's turning into a mini-Fort Mac without the benefits for everyone.

  • The Barnacle Goose
    July 20, 2013 - 10:19

    Canada has sanctioned this project for the carbon offset credits in spite of the list of mitigation measures ranging from downstream contamination to social adversities. Let alone the fantasy economic predictions and the perpetuation of the "Quebec stranglehold" that only our most ignorant or opportunistic refer to. There is more consideration for migratory birds and yew than for the Inuit-Metis, the Innu Nation sold its people out for 30 pcs of Mary Brown's and any insightful individual analysis of the project is derided with emotional rhetoric. It is sad to see Yvonne jobs Jones crying over 20% employment, Gary green Goobie having to sell a coastal grounding station to his cancer-fearing constituents, and Ed and Cabot Muskrat-Marten reducing their 90 years of combined wisdom to becoming twittering mammals of online propaganda. Harper and Dunderdale are shaking up their etch-a-sketch cabinets for the next round of Psy Ops leadership. Are river ruin, seabed disruption and social ills worth carbon credit, surplus power and short-term jobs? They are to those who would invite the Chinese ruling class to this potlatch of insanity.