Hearings have started that will determine the future of the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project. A joint federal-provincial panel is holding environmental assessment hearings in nine Labrador communities over 45 days. The hearings are controversial. Already one group has filed an injunction to get them stopped.
April 15, 2011
Labrador Morning: They started March 3rd and today the panel reviewing the proposed Lower Churchill project wraps up their hearings in Happy Valley Goose Bay. The sessions have heard from people who support the project and many who don't, citing environmental and economic and personal reasons. It's now up to the panel to review all of the documents before making their final recommendation to government. Nalcor vice-president Gilbert Bennett was in the studio to give us his take on the hearings.
April 8, 2011
Labrador Morning: We have more for you now from the Lower Churchill environmental hearings. In the session on environmental management there was some discussion about entrainment, when fish are carried with the flow through the penstocks at the hydro facility. In this excerpt you will hear questions from panel co-chair Leslie Griffiths to Aquatic biologist, Jim McCarthy, representing Nalcor, you will hear a follow up question by Roberta Benefiel of the Grand River Keeper
April 4, 2011
Labrador Morning: We have an excerpt from the social and cultural impact session. Here is Petrina Beals, executive director of the Mokami Status of Women Council.
March 31, 2011
Labrador Morning: The Lower Churchill Environmental panel held another virtual community meeting last night this time they heard from people in Rigolet. There was a long list of presenters, including Marie Rich andTony Woolfrey. Here is an excerpt of what they had to say to the panel.
March 30, 2011
Labrador Morning: The Lower Churchill environmental review panel turned its attention to social and cultural impacts at it's hearings on Tuesday. Nalcor surveyed activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, boating snowmobiling, berry picking and wood harvesting in the lower part of the Churchill River. Colleen Leeder is a Stantec consultant working for Nalcor and the demand on many services is expected to increase if the Lower Churchill development goes ahead. Delia Connell speaks for LG Health
March 25, 2011
Labrador Morning:The Supreme Court has turned down NunatuKavut's application to stop the Lower Churchill Environmental hearings. The group argued it had not been given full recognition as an aboriginal group with a legitimate claim to the land. NunatuKavut's president Chris Montague spoke with Labrador Morning
Labrador Morning: The Environmental Review panel hooked up with people in Nain last night for a virtual meeting to discuss the Lower Churchill. The proposed project is far away from the community but people still think that they should get some benefits from this development. Tony Anderson is Angaukkak in Nain.
March 24, 2011
The Lower Churchill Environmental Review panel spent the last two days holding community meetings in Sheshatshiu. This excerpt begins with a question about mercury from Joseph Penashue. The other voices you'll hear are Perry Trimper and Gilbert Bennett representing Nalcor. You will also hear Clarice Blake Rudkowski, whose family is from Sheshatshiu and final comments from Kathryn Nuna.
March 23, 2011
Labrador Morning: The school gym in Sheshatshiu was packed yesterday when the Lower Churchill Environmental review Panel came to town. Two days have been set aside to hear what people there have to say about the proposed development. Yesterday afternoon's session was for the elders. One of the people who spoke was Joseph Penashue and For some, like Francisca Snow, it was their first time speaking publicly on the issue.
March 22, 2011
Labrador Morning: People in North West River had their say about the Lower Churchill Project last night as the community meetings for the environmental panel continued. One of the presenters told the group that he supports the development but only under certain conditions. Leander Baikie wants to see ALL Labrador-based businesses have a fair chance when bidding for contracts.
March 21, 2011
Labrador Morning: The people of Mud Lake got a chance to hear first hand about the Nalcor's plan to develop the Lower Churchill River when the Environmental review Panel took their hearings to the community on Saturday. One of the presenters on Saturday was Vyanne Kerby.
March 18, 2011
Labrador Morning: Nalcor's Perry Trimper laid out the results of the proponent's scentific work on animals: how the studies were done and the results of that work. This excerpt focusses on the Woodland Caribou of Labrador. Bruno Marcocchio of the Sierra Club took exception to the conclusion about the effects of the development on the red wine caribou.
March 17, 2011Labrador Morning: The topic of mercury was on the agenda at the Lower Churchill Environmental hearings. Dr Michel Parent, of Natural Resources Canada explains a bit about how mercury occurs and how we can minimize it's impacts Neil Burgess, a wildlife toxicologist with Environment Canada. And, Roberta Benefiel is with the Grand River Keeper.
March 16, 2011
Labrador Morning: Lower Churchill Panel: Aquatic Environment. Covering issues such as sediment, flow, water temperature and mercury levels. Nalcor says the river will be stringently monitored and will be used by fish. Here is an excerpt of a presentation by Tillman Bieger, Regional Manager for Habitat Protection with the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans. As well, Jim Carthy is an aquatic biologist, one of the scientists employed by Nalcor on this project.
Labrador Morning: On Tuesday, 30 protesters gathered outside Hotel North Two to show their discontent with the proposed Lower Churchill development.
March 14, 2011
Labrador Morning: Panel members and presenters at the Lower Churchill hearings spent Friday morning cluing up discussion about the question of whether or not to clear the wood out of the muskrat Falls reservoir area.
March 9, 2011
Labrador Morning: The Lower Churchill Environmental hearings continued yesterday despite a warning from a Supreme court judge in St. John's. Economic impact was the topic at Wednesday's panel session.One point of discussion centered around the question of whether this development will result in a boom bust situation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
A lot of people are wondering what a development such as the Lower Churchill might mean for the community of Happy Valley Goose Bay. One issue that has been raised is housing. That was something addressed by the Melville Native Housing Association chairperson Joe Goudie:
March 7, 2011
On Friday the review panel looking into the proposed project heard from the Grand Chief of the Innu Nation. Here is some of what Joseph Riche had to say. Followed by Debbie Michelin and Sterling Peyton, President of the Labrador North Chamber Of Commerce
March 3, 2011
It was years in the making and now the proposal to develop the Lower Churchill is in the hands of an Environmental Assessment Review panel.
The public hearings got underway Thursday night in front of a packed conference room in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Here are several excerpts:
- Question from Bruno Marcocchio of the Sierra Club
- Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Leo Abbass
- A question of housing in Happy-Valley Goose Bay
The who, what, where, when and why of the Lower Churchill hearings:
- The Lower Churchill Joint Review Panel was appointed by the federal Minister of the Environment and the provincial Ministers of Environment and Conservation and Intergovernmental Affairs.
- The process to begin the environmental assessment and form the panel began back in 2007.
- Members of the panel include Lesley Griffiths, Herbert Clarke, Dr. Meinhard Doelle, Catherine Jong and James Igloliorte.
- The assessment process, as you might expect from the name, covers the physical environment, looking at how the dams will affect the water, the air, the land. But it's more than that. The panel is looking at the social and economic implications of the project and even the need for it in the first place.
- The panel will report back with recommendations to the provincial and federal ministers of environment.
Nalcor Energy is the province's energy warehouse. According to the provincial government, it is the parent company of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, the Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation, and the Oil and Gas Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the provincial lead for the development of the Lower Churchill Project and it will also take ownership of the Bull Arm Site Corporation.
"This project is of significant important to our province, to our economic future, to a sustainable future to our province as a whole. It will be an important contribution to the province's economy and certainly an important source of energy for the region," said Gilbert Bennett, the vice president of Nalcor in charge of the Lower Churchill project.
- As the lead on development of the Lower Churchill, its role at the hearings is to explain to explain the project and respond to concerns and questions.
- Nalcor has assembled decades of research and a stack of documents almost six feet tall, looking at everything from caribou and black bears to fish and birds.
- Nalcor will have to prove that damming up the Churchill river and the impact that creates is warranted to fill Newfoundland and Labrador's electricity needs.
In November 2010, Nalcor and N.S.'s Emera Inc. agreed on a $6.2 billion plan to generate 824 megawatts of power at Muskrat Falls on Labrador's Churchill River. According to the deal, electricity will be moved first to Newfoundland with much of it later relayed through Nova Scotia by underwater cables. The provinces have asked the federal government for a loan guarantee to help with the project which was before a Senate energy committee hearing in Halifax earlier this week.
According the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's description, Muskrat Falls will have a capacity of 800 MW, including a dam at the north section 32 m high by 180 m long, and the south section 29 m high by 370 m long with a reservoir 60 km long, flooding an additional 36 km² area.
But the hearings will not only deal with with Muskrat Falls. Back when the environmental assessment project process began, the project included development of Gull Island, which will have a capacity of 2,000 MW, including a dam 99 m high by 1,315 m long with a reservoir 225 km long flooding an additional 85 km² area.
The hearings are scheduled to take place in nine communities and last 45 days.
Change in Location
The Community session on March 21 in Northwest River will now take place at the Northwest River Community Center.
The Community sessions on March 22 and 23 in Sheshatshiu will take place at the Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu School.
The General sessions on April 4 and 5 in St.John's will take place at the Holiday Inn St. John's (180 Portugal Cove Road).
Labrador MP Todd Russell a virtual town hall about the project before the the hearings started. He said 2,200 people dialled in, and of those, hundreds voiced concerns about a lack of employment, the environmental impact, an increase in hydro rates and a lack of power for coastal Labrador. He said he rejects the idea of Ottawa putting up a loan guarantee to develop Muskrat Falls because it would have no benefit to his constituents.
NunatuKavut, the group formerly known as the Labrador Metis Nation, has filed an injunction to stop the hearings. Members of NunatuKavut said the hearings must be stopped because Nalcor hasn't consulted them about the proposed development.
The environmental group Grand Riverkeeper also opposes the project, saying there are plenty of problems with the project.
"This is a mega project, it's not clean, it's not green, it's not cheap. It's just going to wreak too much damage on the environment and impact social issues and all sorts of things. We just don't see how it can be sustainable, Clarice Blake Rudkowsk from Grand Riverkeeper said recently.
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