Nfld. & Labrador

Muskrat protesters applaud Cartwright for clear-cutting demand, plans to block Nalcor

The town of Cartwright says protests are planned to block shipments destined for Muskrat Falls unless Nalcor agrees to make environmental changes. Make Muskrat Right protesters are backing the community.

Nalcor says it's committed to dealing with concerns about methylmercury

Nolan Campbell, 4, was out protesting "the bad guys" on Thursday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Make Muskrat Right protesters are cheering Cartwright residents for voting to impede the transportation of seven 200-tonne transformers through the town and insisting on major changes to the project to prevent potential environmental damage.

Make Muskrat Right protesters held a march in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday. There have been a number of protests in the region in recent weeks. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"They realize the danger that this so-called Muskrat Falls dam is going to put this community into and they're actually taking action," protester Eldred Davis said at a demonstration in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday.

"The timing is perfect. The transformers that Nalcor would need to producer power, along with a lot of other things they would need to produce power, can be stopped from actually reaching Muskrat Falls site."

Protesters left the Labrador Friendship Centre and walked to Environment Minister Perry Trimper's office, where some taped their signs to the front of the building. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Dwight Lethbridge, Cartwright's mayor, told Labrador Morning that residents don't want transformers moving through town and will block traffic unless Nalcor agrees to their conditions.

"This is people's well-being and their health," said protester Tiffany Lambourne, who was marching to Environment Minister Perry Trimper's office with a group of about 80 others.

"I'm just really glad to see people standing up for themselves."

Lethbridge wants Nalcor to agree to clear the Muskrat Falls reservoir of all soil and vegetation in order to mitigate against a potential spike in methylmercury levels downstream, which could contaminate country food like fish and seals.

"The people of Cartwright don't fear the law or anything else when it comes to protecting food sources, culture, tradition. They'll take a stand by whatever means necessary."

Cartwright mayor Dwight Lethbridge is doubling down in a public feud with Nalcor over delivery of seven 200-tonne transformers to the Muskrat Falls site through his town and insisting on major changes to the project. 7:37

The request follows months of objection and demonstrations led by the Labrador Inuit government, Nunatsiavut.

"People want Muskrat made right, plain and simple. It's part of that same campaign," Lethbridge said. "We're acting for the people that we're supposed to lead and I commend the people for having such a strong voice and making it so clear to us."

Just last week Lethbridge told CBC's Labrador Morning the town council was worried about the impact of heavy traffic on local infrastructure.

On Wednesday, the town held a public meeting where residents made clear they were more concerned with methylmercury contamination.

"The town council went to Nalcor and the province looking for benefits for the community, but the tone and the outcry from the people last night was in a completely different direction," said Lethbridge on Thursday.

"We've been given our direction and that is to stop this project for completely different reasons."

Methylmercury concern 'extremely important': Nalcor

Seven transformers will be shipped to Cartwright and then trucked to the Muskrat Falls work site. (Twitter)

Gilbert Bennett, Nalcor's vice-president in charge of power development, previously told CBC delivery of the seven transformers will use only provincially-owned roads and the port, which is also owned by the province.

On Thursday, in an emailed statement attributed to Bennett, Nalcor said concerns over methylmercury had the corporation's "full commitment and is extremely important."

"We understand people's concerns regarding methylmercury and are committed to working with the aboriginal communities and all of our stakeholders in Labrador on this important issue," the statement read.

Even so, Lethbridge said people in Cartwright would stage a "peaceful protest" with one goal:

"Stop the project, plain and simple. People know how to do it and I'm confident that they'll do it."