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Landslide at North Spur, Land Protectors demand action

A Facebook post of damage that has been noted in the last couple of days.
A Facebook post of damage that has been noted in the last couple of days from Mayflower Flowers. - Computer screen shot

Nalcor says landslide at North Spur not a safety risk

Residents who live downstream from the North Spur fear the worst after a landslide there near the Muskrat Falls dam.

"We're basically living in fear," said Mud Lake resident Craig Chaulk. "We have been uneasy ever since the flood of last spring, and this does nothing to alleviate our fears, obviously. In fact, it enhances our fears."

A social media post from Craig Chaulk
A social media post from Craig Chaulk

Nalcor issued a statement about the landslide shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday morning. Spokesperson Karen O'Neill says Nalcor's geotechnical engineering team is aware of the landslide, but says there is no risk to the North Spur dam or Muskrat Falls facilities or operations.

"Nalcor is aware of a slide that occurred on the North side of the lower Churchill river. This area is downstream (east) of the North Spur and is outside of the North Spur dam stabilization area," O'Neill wrote in an e-mailed statement. 

"Significant work has been completed to reinforce the North Spur dam and this is no safety risk in relation to the North Spur or the Muskrat Falls facilities as a result of this recent slide."

O'Neill says that landslides along the Churchill River are "fairly common". The North Spur is a hill that connects Spirit Mountain to the north shore at Muskrat Falls. It rests on a foundation of marine clay that experts have said is likely to be involved in landslides.

"Given the slide is outside the North Spur dam stabilization area there is no risk to the North Spur dam or the Muskrat Falls facilities or operations," she wrote.

Chaulk says he is concerned about the statement from Nalcor. 

"They downplay everything that happens there, and as far as I’m concerned, they just take it too lightly."

Chaulk says he would like to see Nalcor lower the water levels in the reservoir as a precautionary measure.

"What I would like to see is for them to immediately start drawing down the water from the reservoir in a slow and controlled manner so it doesn’t cause any adverse effects downstream...they have the water elevated to 23.5 metres now, and the normal level for this time of year is in the range of 18 to 20 metres. So, there’s excess water there already, and I think they should bring it back to normal levels until this site can be thoroughly looked at and assessed for any more possible slides."

Chaulk also expressed concern with how long it took for Nalcor to say something about the landslide.

"I think that Nalcor was very slow in responding to this," he said. "They didn’t issue any statements until today. It happened sometime yesterday. And the fact that they didn’t call our community here in Mud Lake, or Happy Valley-Goose Bay, to let us know that there was a slide...the fact that they didn’t notify us and say, there’s nothing to worry about, or whatever their take was on it, to at least inform us that there was a slide before we found out ourselves on Facebook."

Residents of the area have been protesting for years that the dam site is in a danger zone. 

A post from LLP member James Learning
A post from LLP member James Learning

“If the North Spur dam fails, there is the likelihood of loss of life in Goose Bay and Happy Valley, and the river will divert to flow through the breach in the Spur,” hydropower consultant Jim Gordon, of Point Claire, Que., wrote in a letter to the editor in 2015.

The Telegram is following this story and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

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A video of the North Spur by Flight of Icarus, posted to YouTube in Apri, 2016

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