You are on page 1of 3

Labrador Land

Protectors (LLP)

July 12, 2017

Attn: Premier Dwight Ball

Confederation Building

St. Johns, NL

RE: Muskrat Falls and North Spur Review of Risks:

RE: Our letter presented to you on May 9th in the House (see attached)

Dear Premier Ball:

On May 9th, 2017 a letter was presented to you in the House of Assembly from the above referenced
concerned citizens groups outlining our concerns about the North Spur and other aspects of the Muskrat
Falls Project. (A copy of the letter is attached) We advised you at that time that Grand Riverkeeper
Labrador and the Labrador Land Protectors have determined that a complete and independent expert
review of the North Spur must be undertaken and funded by your/our government immediately. To
date, we have not even received the courtesy of an acknowledgement of the receipt of that letter much
less an answer to our concerns. Our groups find this unacceptable and are writing today to advise you
that our fight to maintain the safety of the citizens of Mud Lake and the Lower Valley from flooding, and
to secure the safety from methyl mercury of our water and country food will not end until you and our
other other elected officials take these matters seriously.

Muskrat Falls is the only hydroelectric dam in the world which relies on a large natural dam underlain by
sensitive glacial clays, and that has obviously raised major concerns for our local communities. Experts
from the Geological Survey of Canada documented the extensive presence of glacial marine clays in the
Lower Churchill in their testimony to the joint panel.

The recently disclosed and disturbing SNC Lavalin risk assessment report of April 2013 which rated the
risk as very high, states the need for further geo-scientific analysis to inform remedial measures, but
we have no documentation showing that Nalcor has successfully remediated those risks and we believe
only the work of an independent expert review panel can determine whether the risks have been
reduced or indeed whether they can be mitigated or eliminated.
Also, a new Masters thesis by Robin Dury from Lulea Technical University in Trondheim, Sweden
received by us just last week but provided to SNC Lavalin and Nalcor at a conference on quick clay in
Sweden several weeks ago, concludes that he, Mr Dury, has applied the more modern dynamic
modelling that Dr. Stig Bernander, world renowned expert in sensitive clays, states is the most up-to
date method of evaluating the risks of failure in sensitive soils, that the rise in water level from 17 m to
39 m may trigger a landslide and that the North Spur does not form a safe and reliable part of the
impoundment wall. , and that the critical load bearing capacity of the natural dam will not be able to
stand up to the pressure, which could exceed twice its capacity, meaning, the North Spur could fail when
the reservoir is filled, based on Durys research, confirming that Dr. Bernanders conclusion that further
study, including field investigations, are needed to ensure that the Muskrat Falls project can rely upon
the safety and stability of the North Spur is correct.

Premier, the risk of failure at the North Spur cannot be dismissed on the basis of the research
undertaken to date, which must be updated, using the most modern models, applying tools which take
full account of soil porosity and allow for realistic assumptions on soil deformation behavior.

Unless this more modern and advanced approach is applied to model the dynamic properties of
sensitive soils under stress no one can claim that the North Spur is safe. Thus, we have to entertain the
possibility that the natural dam is not safe and cannot be remediated. This would be te worse case and
most unthinkable scenario, requiring that the Province write off its full investment at the generation
site. In this context, it is important that the research be updated as soon as possible. If remediation is
not possible for technical or financial reasons, then the project should be immediately terminated.

A project that has such a pervasive influence has to achieve a certain level of community acceptability
and this is particularly true of Muskrat Falls, whose negative impacts bear so heavily, and unfairly upon
the residents of the adjacent region. Social licence is the notion that such a project must both achieve a
level of community acceptance and maintain that acceptance and support throughout the construction
and operations phases.

This concept has been sorely lacking from the relationship between government and community
organizations. The failure to achieve progress on the new governance model negotiated in the early
hours of October 26, 2016 for remediating the impact of methylmercury from the Muskrat Falls
reservoir is evidence of this problem. The lack of a response to our Petition and letters provided to you
on May 9th, 2017 asking you and Government to appoint an expert panel on the North Spur is yet
another shortcoming of the social licence, one which raises grave misgivings for all of us.

Our meeting with you and your four Members of the House of Assembly on February 13, 2017, was an
opportunity for us to express our extreme frustration. This meeting is documented in a video which can
be found at The video conveys poignantly the
dilemma we face when governments response to our cry is a deafening silence!
When public health and safety are at issue, such critical independent assessment must be in the public
view through a fully transparent process and conducted by a panel of geo-technical experts. (as outlined
in our structure document that accompanied our original letter and is again attached here) The
review must be fully independent of the proponent and its engineering consultants. The Precautionary
Principle requires that when a project imposes a potential risk to the public and the environment, and
there is no demonstrated scientific consensus to refute such risk, then the proponent MUST provide
evidence that the project will not be harmful. This applies in particular when extensive scientific
knowledge on the matter is lacking. There is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure
to harm. The exercise of the Principle calls for further scientific research and inquiry to provide sound
evidence that no harm will result. Despite the posting of various studies on the Nalcor website, no
forum has been provided in which Nalcor can present its analysis for critical review by independent
international experts or by the people most directly affected.

Based on all the evidence to the contrary, Nalcor and proponents of the project continue to state the
project is great, a world class project. We respectfully disagree and request AGAIN that government
appoint an independent expert panel to assess the evidence compiled by Nalcor and its consultants and
undertake any additional investigations and research necessary. The panel should be appointed under
the Inquiries Act in order to give it full power to compel the production of evidence and to subpoena
witnesses. We request that government act immediately on our Petition signed by over 1000 residents
who believe that this project is a clear and present danger to everybody in the province and particularly
to those who live and work downstream of Muskrat Falls. The panel of experts must be headed by an
eminent geo-technical scientist and should be selected in consultation with community stakeholders in

As a final statement regarding our original letter of request, our petition, and this letter, Premier, we
expect a reply to our concerns at your earliest convenience, but certainly before two more months


Roberta Frampton Benefiel, VP Grand Riverkeeper Labrador

Marjorie Flowers, Advisory council of the Labrador Land Protectors.