Monthly Archives: March 2013

Convorsations with the Premier (‘s office)? And Mandy :)

With my continued concerns, and since Premier Dunderdale was claiming that no one had approached HER with concerns about the project.  I thought I best address her directly.  So I did … in November.

Good old Mandy at Nalcor responded in February!  I guess that is the “appropriate attention” ….


Nov 23, 2012

Dear Premier,

I have recently learned that there are 12,000 fathoms of communal fishing gear set in Lake Melville every year.

In this day and age we know that a return to such practices in sustainable ways would only benefit our Environment, so I would assume we would continue to be supportive of having healthy fish to eat.

There is still higher then normal mercury levels in the region from Churchill Falls.

When will there be an environmental assessment with respect to Muskrat Falls to ensure the safety of these people who are living in part off the land?

Denise Hennebury
Mount Pearl


Nov 23, 2012

Dear Denise:

Thank you for your email to Premier Dunderdale.  Please be assured that your correspondence will be given appropriate attention.


Chantalle Hull
Office of the Premier


Hummm … so MANDY (see my last post) got back to me.  You remember Mandy right??  Earlier she was responding from

This day she is responding from:


Feb 21, 2013

Dear Ms. Hennebury,

Thank you for your inquiry.
As part of the Lower Churchill Project Hydroelectric Generation Project (Project) Joint Review Panel (JRP) environmental assessment process Nalcor completed modeling for the expected mercury concentration elevation and transport in the Churchill River system. The modeling predicts major flushing at the mouth of the river resulting in baseline levels in Lake Melville (see Nalcor’s response to JRP Information Request, Volume 8, IR JRP.166). Nalcor will implement an extensive monitoring program throughout the Churchill River system below Muskrat Falls to confirm methyl mercury concentrations from the tailrace into Lake Melville. This program will include water, fish and wildlife sampling in the river valley and the results will be made available to the public. Consumption advisories will be issued in consultation with Health Canada based on the results, including for Lake Melville in the case that methyl mercury levels increase. For further information, please reference applicable Nalcor Responses to Information Requests related to methyl mercury and the information compiled in the environmental impact statement at the following link:
In addition to the monitoring program to occur in the river valley, Nalcor will conduct a human health risk assessment throughout the Upper Lake Melville region. This assessment will include determining pre-Project baseline levels of mercury in residents and follow-up sampling. This information will assist in the implementation of consumption advisories. Nalcor has prepared a Human Health Risk Assessment Preliminary Report  which is available in Responses to Information Requests Volume 8, Attachment E at the above link.
Mandy Norris
Thanks again Mandy,

And I apologize that this was forwarded on to you when I was hoping to get an answer from my government representatives. That’s politics I guess.




Chats with Mandy at the Nalcor public relations and communications department (I assume)

Oct 29 – Nov 14, 2012

We were eventually encouraged to address Nalcor directly.  So I did.  My first question in the Fall of 2012 was about Dredging Sand.  Mandy was prompt, so I asked more about alternative energy and clarification on the issues surrounding clearing the land.

I have to say, this particular line of questions were well answered and helpful, until she started directing me into the heart of the documentation, which one would not necessarily call “reader-friendly”:

Contact email:


Nalcor …

I am curious as to the plan to control the build up of sand against the dam structure at the lower Churchill.

I understand that the Grand River is quite sandy, such that the sand dunes in the river shift frequently.  Such conditions would suggest there would be a continuous need to dredge the reservoir.  What is the plan to ensure the longevity of the site?  How frequent would the area have to be cleared and what is the anticipated impact on the fish that might eventually come back to live in the new reservoir?

Thank you in advance for your reply.

Denise Hennebury


Hi Denise,

The sedimentation and geomorphology of the river has been modelled and we have a comprehensive understanding of the the future reservoir conditions (refer to the attached component studies).  Although there will be some sedimentation behind the dam, estimated to be approximately 1 million cubic meter per year, the volume represents only 0.1% of the entire reservoir capacity.  As well, regardless of reduction in reservoir capacity the deposition of material would have no impact on the net head of the facility or power production. As such there would be no impact to the longevity of the site.  Based on factors there would be no requirement to dredge the reservoir and no impact to fish populations that will currently exist and will continue to exist in the new reservoir.

Thank you,
Mandy Norris




Thank you for that response, that certainly is a major concern of mine as I was reviewing information about the project.  It is good to know that the reservoir is anticipated to normalize in some way.

Another two questions I have as I watch the videos on the new Power Is In Our Hands are also environmental.

1 — There is mention of Wave energy in the videos.  What models were used in studying wave energy for NL?  and Is there plans to develop these?

2 — Though I appreciate that the Lower Churchill development will eventually result in less Green House Gas emissions then running Holyrood as is into the future, however initially there is a significant foot print.  Has there been work to enumerate the emissions that will result from flooding and how long it will take for those emissions to reduce to natural levels? Are there maps of the flood planes for the two projects and what area of that land will be fully cleared (versus the steeper hills which I understand will not be able to be fully cleared)?

I am really trying to get my head around the project and the environmental information seems less emphasized then the economics.

Thanks again.
Denise Hennebury


Hi Denise,

In response to question #1 : Despite some limited successes, neither tidal nor wave power has become a commercial mainstream source of renewable energy. Consequently, NLH screened out the use of wave and tidal power as an alternative supply option for the Isolated Island alternative.

Further information can be found in Nalcor’s submission to the PUB for the Muskrat Falls review on Page 82, section: 4.2.11 Wave and Tial

I am still working on the information to your second question.

Thank you,


Hi Denise,

Please find the remainder of the information you requested below.

Nalcor has completed extensive studies regarding the production of greenhouse gases during impoundment and operation phases of the Lower Churchill Project. The results, as described in the EIS, Volume IIA, Chapter 3, can be found on the Nalcor website at the following link:

Nalcor has provided additional detail in their responses to information requests from the Joint Review Panel during the environmental assessment which will be available at the above link. Nalcor’s responses to information Requests JRP.7/7S and JRP.85/85S explains in detail the potential displacement of greenhouse gas emitting energy sources in the market and the estimated emissions from the construction and operating phases of the Project. Modelling studies have indicated that the long term emissions from the project are negligible compared to the potential for displacement.

JRP. 148 describes the analysis completed to determine the clearing to occur during reservoir preparation activities. The estimated area and to be removed for the optimal option and the ‘full clearing’ option are indicated in Table 1. The chosen option includes 1800ha of clearing, as compared to the 3300ha for full clearing. As indicated in JRP.85, Table 1, a comparison of three levels of clearing (including ‘no clearing’), reveals minimal discrepancy in greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the removal of additional vegetation from the reservoirs would not provide a significant reduction in emissions.

Inundation mapping for the Muskrat Falls and Gull Island reservoirs can be found in JRP. 96. The Muskrat Falls reservoir will be 41 km2, which is relatively small as compared to similar size hydroelectric projects.

Thank you,

Mandy Norris


This all came with a load of attachments …


IR148 Appendix A




IR007S and 085S


AE_WQ_03_Sedimentation and Morphodynamics Study

AE_WQ_01_Water and Sediment Modelingm

Back as I was Starting to ask questions … Oct 2011

I thought it was abut time to post some communications I have had with various people at government and Nalcor around the project … let’s begin in the fall of 2011 when I began my own research.

I am about to go through my email and share a few more of these …

Oct 20, 2011

Hello Ms. Hennebury,

Andrea Power, Constituency Assistant to MHA Steve Kent forwarded an email of questions that you had regarding Muskrat Falls.  Listed below is the reply from the department with respect to your question.

1) Does the muskrat falls plan include ridding the province of fossil fuel burning energy?  And what is the time frame on that?

Output from the Muskrat Falls Project will be used to meet the growing demand for electricity on the Island and to displace oil-fired thermal generation at Holyrood. 

There are currently 22 isolated communities in Labrador and on the Island which remain isolated form the interconnected grids.  These communities rely on diesel generated electricity.  One of these communities, Ramea, is the site of a wind-hydrogen-diesel pilot project and, should this technology prove to be commercial, then we may employ the same technology in other communities. 

In Labrador, Government is funding a second study into identifying wind or small hydro sites that can provide all or some of the energy needs of the isolated communities. 

This work is ongoing.

2) We need to see a map that shows where the transmission line will go down through the island

Attached is a link to the Lower Churchill Project.  You may find this beneficial (old link)

Should you require any further information, please contact


Mr. Charles Bown

Associate Deputy Minister, Energy

Natural Resources

Carbon and Culture (for On the Go, VOCM)

A series of emails sent to Back Talk/ On the Go November 19, 2012


It scares me that Kathy Dunderdale it talking about the other parties in the house as if they are nagging siblings trying to get their way. Government is not meant to be run by a single party taking ideas from the others only as they see fit. Yet here we are. And then Dunderdale comes out and says they have been as fair as they can be! Personally, in talking with anyone from the PC party, I don’t feel I get anything back but the party line, nothing that I couldn’t read from a website or press release.

As things got hairy, the government created a giant flashy ad campaign to share all of the benefits of the Muskrat Falls project and then did a small poll to see if their tactic worked.

What is the government afraid of? If they are so sure of this project, meaningful open debate should be allowed. I guess they are worried that if it gets out that there will be environmental devastation, cultural crippling, that the carbon emissions will not be significantly better then those at Hollyrood and that there is real scientific risk of mercury bio-accumulation in the river and Lake Melville that will last decades; maybe more of their support will wane?

Yet it seems to me it would only be fair, that the same money tree that affords the government to inundate us with pro muskrat falls information should also fund a pamphlet about the concerns so that we can decide as a people where our values lie!

Denise Hennebury

Environmental Educator from Mount Pearl


Denise, Thanks for your email. We’ll read from it this afternoon on OTG. Can you please give me a bit more detail on two of your points? How could MF be “cultural crippling”, and how might “the carbon emissions… not be significantly better than those at Hollyrood”?

Thanks Ted Blades


Thanks for asking for the clarification; hopefully I can share what I mean here:


It is hard to numerate the environmental costs associated with the project, especially when you consider the long-term effects. However Holyrood is an established site, and that is how we have to compare it to the next project. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone the burning of fossil fuels, however I do believe that the math could support that there would be no net benefit of Muskrat Falls over Holyrood in the next 20 or maybe 30 year. And we could use that time to develop wave or tidal plants (consider Scotland’s huge wave energy industry).

At Muskrat Falls, when the land is prepared for flooding not all the organic material is removed. In fact even if the locals wanted to take some of that wood, they have been denied access in the past (not that such small scale removal would make much of a difference, so I digress). The valley is too steep in many places to remove the wood, and still not all the organic material will be removed where it can be cleared (roots, topsoil). The rotting vegetation will release carbon dioxide and methane (methane being the worse or the two for green house gasses). But that may be of little consequence considering the creation of such a large facility at such a remote location. The carbon release in clearing the land, moving supplies and moving people in and out of the site for 6 years needs to be considered as well.

What I am suggesting is that between rotting vegetation, harvesting trucks, concrete mixers, sewage removal, helicopter trips, security measures, construction personnel, and the list goes on, the carbon foot print will be astronomical in a process that began a year ago and will go until NO SOONER than 2018.

If we were to truly compare the numbers, it has been said by people smarter than I that in the short term we will be in no better of a situation, and in the long term we could have make less ecologically sound choices.

Culture ..

For full disclosure, I live in Mount Pearl. That is important because it is not just those downstream that will feel the loss of this river. Even here I am heart sick about this project! Such a significant piece of our Natural Heritage will be destroyed. Such a key aspect of the shape and integrity of our land will be dismissed for the relatively short-term gains of a generation. The Earth heals herself, she changes, fish populations will be poisoned and reduced, and the water will continue to find its way. However in a culture that embraces so strongly our link to the land, this sort of disrespect for our past and the loss of that connection for future generations will never be healed. Those children will never know the largest river in the province … they will know 3 giant reservoirs.

I also am in conversation with a lot of Labradoreans (none of whom I even knew 3 months ago). I hear their pain and loss and sense of betrayal ever day. Many Southern Inuit of the region still eat wild game and especially fish. With poisoning of the waterways with methyl mercury, there will be another ban on the consumption of these species from the waters. An advisory from Environment of Canada has listed Lake trout and Northern pike for limited use for food from Smallwood reservoir and a distance below … STILL!

Like our language, food is a major part of any people’s culture. Add to that the spiritual refuge the river provides to the local people, and the history it embraces! There are spirits at Muskrat Falls, and to hear the people talk about it give you chills. Those spirits cannot be content in a concrete wall.

Hope this answers you questions.




Thanks for both emails; it really clears it up for and I’ve incorporated some of these into your first email