Labrador town not ready for Muskrat boom, forum hears

Happy Valley-Goose Bay residents tell a public meeting that the town is not equipped to handle the activity and people that will come with Muskrat Falls.
Several dozen people crowded into a public forum at Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Muskrat Falls readiness on Tuesday night. CBC

Even supporters of Muskrat Falls told a public meeting Tuesday night that Happy Valley-Goose Bay is not able to handle the activity and people that will come with the hydroelectric megaproject.

Opponents and backers alike told the forum that the town is poised to be overwhelmed by problems, with an existing housing crunch likely to become much worse.

Resident Debbie Michelin is worried that Muskrat Falls will not deliver many benefits to people who live in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (CBC )

Other concerns ranged from recreation facilities to congested roads once construction on the nearby site off the Churchill River kicks into high gear.

"I've been in a lot of mining towns and you see the boom," said businessman Glenn Noseworthy, who told the meeting he has been waiting for more than three decades to see the Lower Churchill plan finally come to pass.

"I mean we're not ready for it. This town's not ready for it," he said.

The meeting was told that aging recreation facilities are already filled to capacity, and that new services will be needed as hundreds of new families move to the area.

But some speakers who oppose the project said they're worried the town could come out as the loser.

"I'm not for it, but if I have to put up with it and I have to be part of it, then my god, let's get something out of it," said Debbie Michelin, who is worried that most of the benefits from Muskrat Falls will accrue far away from the town.

"They talk about a recreation facility. We should have the best recreation facilities in this province for what we're going to give up."

The Happy Valley-Goose Bay council says it does not yet know what the financial impact of the project will be on the area.

The construction site is outside the town's boundaries, which means that it will not be able to collect any direct tax revenues from Muskrat Falls.

The town says it is trying to work with the Newfoundland and Labrador government for a funding deal that will cover problems that will come with the project.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government sanctioned the project in December, with an official budget of at least $7.4 billion. Halifax-based Emera Inc., which is a partner in the project, expects that the overall cost will increase by several hundred million dollars because of the cost of installing subsea cables that will eventually carry electricity into Nova Scotia.