Muskrat could bring harm, Rigolet fears
Residents of a small community on Labrador's coast have told environmental hearings on the proposed Lower Churchill megaproject that they worry what the hydroelectric project will do to them.
Rigolet residents packed the local school on Wednesday night to participate by video link with a panel that is holding environmental hearings into Nalcor Energy's plans to build a generating station at Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River.
"It's not just a project," said Marilyn Baikie, who said the development will mean substantial changes to waterways and fish that residents depend upon.
"It's not about money, it's about our life, our culture, and everything we believe in."
Rigolet is more than 100 kilometres from the project at the mouth of Lake Melville.
Some residents said they can remember dramatic changes that came in the wake of the Upper Churchill dam built upstream.
Tony Woolfrey described how his father used to catch cod right off Rigolet, at least until construction of the Upper Churchill project in the 1960s.
"Five or six years, maybe seven or eight, the codfish left our shores outright here," he said.
Concerns expressed about mercury
Nalcor has said the Lower Churchill's proposed dams will not have an effect on Rigolet.
Woolfrey and others still have worries, including about mercury.
"They won't get to eat the fish in Lake Melville. They won't get to eat the seals up in Lake Melville," he said.
While the Newfoundland and Labrador government is promoting the Lower Churchill as an example of green energy, Charlotte Wolfrey, the AngajukKak, or mayor, in Rigolet is upset her community will still be on diesel generators even after power flows out of Muskrat Falls.
"Labrador, I say we should all rise up and demand at the very least, to be connected and get some electrical power," she said.
The Lower Churchill environmental review panel heard the evidence from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, where hearings began earlier this month. Some Rigolet residents invited the panel to travel to the community to see the area for themselves.