Missing maps and other mysteries

Michael Johansen
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The full moon rises in a lavender sky over the snow-capped Mealy Mountains and a placid Lake Melville.
The other way, the sun sets inside orange clouds, turning Little Lake into a pastel painting and Grand Lake into a hard ribbon of blue steel.
Mokami Hill - the sentinel of central Labrador - is just visible through young branches stripped bare by early autumn snow and wind. It stands to the north between sun and moon where the orange and lavender mix.
The view from North West River's Sunday Hill on
an evening only just passed is one of almost pristine nature.
Humans have made their marks - the rapids at the narrows, for instance, were slowed and the waters turned salty by hydroelectric developments in decades past and more cabins now dot most shorelines - but it is essentially the same as it has been for hundreds of years.
Unfortunately, the view won't last much longer - not if the provincial government has its way.
Not only have all governments (both Liberal and Progressive Conservative) traditionally resisted preserving any of the wilderness, but the current one is eagerly planning to further disfigure what's still there.
That's to say, Nalcor wants to save a few dollars by not running a ground wire with planned transmission lines from Labrador to Newfoundland (the all-power-through-St. John's option for the Lower Churchill boondoggle - one that increasingly looks like it's got nowhere else to go).
Instead, Nalcor wants to build a shorter herringbone of ground-wire towers down both north and south shores of Lake Melville before finally marching them into the sea.
Officials are now backing away from that plan.
As one of a series of mid-process amendments the proponents are making to their cobbled-together plan on how to deal with the extensive environmental damage more dams on the Churchill River are bound to cause, Nalcor is now saying it can get away with towers along only one shoreline.
That, however, leaves at least one big mystery: how can intelligent people keep claiming that hydroelectric megaprojects are environmentally clean?
But Nalcor wants its ground-wire towers, so now it must decide which shore to disfigure.
Since the towers are only the latest of many excuses the government has had for not proceeding with a provincial park that was planned decades ago for the Grand Lake Narrows, that might put the north shore ahead as their best choice.
Then again, while the south shore of Lake Melville was to have been protected by the Mealy Mountain National Park, the provincial government seems to have eliminated that barrier by finally killing the proposal once and for all. All evidence indicates a death.
The people of Cartwright, for instance, who among many others have worked to establish the park for more than 30 years, must have been surprised and discouraged to learn recently that the process was still in its beginning stages.
That would suggest a couple of centuries remain before all the details will eventually get worked out.
In fact, the park should be up and running by now. The process was actually getting to the end stages, with a proposed 21,000 square kilometres of protected wilderness that had almost unanimous support from the people of Labrador.
That was before the Newfoundland government stepped in. They considered the proposal too much and too big, so they put their knives to it.
Now, almost two years since the boundaries were redrawn, officials are still too embarrassed to make the new map public.
Parks Canada has closed its Labrador office and now deflects all inquiries through Ottawa.
It's more and more clear that what St. John's wanted was too little and too small. Parks Canada will never spend effort and money on preserving a rump Mealy Mountain park.
Maybe it's just easier to pretend the proposal is still alive than to admit it's well and truly dead.

Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Organizations: Parks Canada

Geographic location: Labrador, Lake Melville, Grand Lake Mealy Mountains Little Lake St. John's North West River Churchill River Mealy Mountain National Park Cartwright Ottawa

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