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Muskrat Falls not to blame for Mud Lake flooding: Nalcor


Published on May 17, 2017

An area of Mud Lake flooded by the elevated level of the Churchill River.

©Submitted photo

Longtime residents of Mud Lake have been describing the flooding of the Labrador Town along the Churchill River as like nothing they have seen before.

The river rising in the spring is not unusual, but a town under water was never anything they expected to see.

Nalcor Energy and the Lower Churchill project were blamed on social media Wednesday. However, the company claims its operation didn’t have a role in the devastation.

“Water levels have been maintained at a constant elevation of 21.5 metres upstream of the Muskrat Falls spillway since the start of spring thaw last week,” a company spokesperson stated in an email to members of the media.

“Operations at the facility are not impacting downstream water levels and no water has been released from the reservoir. The increased water inflows from upstream as a result of the natural spring thaw are passing through the Muskrat Falls spillway and to the river downstream.”

Nalcor says it continues to monitor the increased water flows and water levels along the river.

“Given the lack of storage capacity in the Muskrat Falls reservoir there is no ability to store water upstream of the facility and therefore reduce downstream flows,” the email states. “The amount of water released by the spillway must be the same as the amount of water that flows into the reservoir.”

The company also said it cares about the communities in which it operates, and recognizes the challenging times the residents of Mud Lake, as well as those in upper Lake Melville, face. Nalcor is committed to supporting the Red Cross as they assist those affected by the flood, according to the email.

Nalcor and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro are working together to monitor the situation. Hydro is also working with Fire and Emergency Services officials to ensure the safety of the public, the email states.

Fire and Emergency Services officials were expected to perform on-site assessments Wednesday afternoon. Part of that process is expected to include recommendations about how long people should be evacuated. However, the evacuation was not a forced one.

Following the House of Assembly Wednesday afternoon, Minister Eddie Joyce said 28 people were evacuated. There were still 11 people in Mud Lake at that time. A helicopter was expected to return to the town to get those people if they want to leave.

“It’s a situation where you can’t make people leave, but we’re giving people every opportunity to leave,” he said.

Joyce also deflected blame from the Muskrat Falls project.

“It has happened before,” he said. “There has been flooding in the area before. Nalcor didn’t raise any water levels this winter.”

Joyce said it’s too soon to discuss compensation for residents. He said the focus is on keeping people safe, and they’ll worry about costs later.

Evacuation operations began at 4 a.m. Wednesday. More than 25 people requested immediate evacuation and were airlifted via helicopter. A bus was on standby at the airport to take evacuees to a reception centre set up at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay arena, which is being co-ordinated by the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, the department said.

The Red Cross is also on site and assisting in responding. Government officials started monitoring the danger Tuesday night and an emergency plan kicked into gear in the early hours Wednesday. The Salvation Army was helping people and most found accommodations by early morning, Joyce said.

 

With files from The Telegram