Nfld. & Labrador

Lower Churchill hearings ending

Hearings into the Lower Churchill Falls hydroelectric project are set to wrap up on Friday, after 45 days worth of submissions.

Hearings into the Lower Churchill Falls hydroelectric project are set to wrap up on Friday, following 45 days of submissions.

Newfoundland and Labrador's crown-owned Nalcor Energy and Nova Scotia's Emera Inc. agreed in November on a $6.2 billion plan to generate 824 megawatts of power at Muskrat Falls on Labrador's Churchill River. According to the deal, underwater cables will relay power first to Newfoundland, then to Nova Scotia.  

The environmental assessment panel heard from dozens of people in communities from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to St. John's. The hearings began on March 1, despite earlier attempts by NunatuKavut, the group formerly known as the Labrador Metis Nation, to stall the meetings. An injunction filed by the group in Supreme Court was later denied.

The panel will provide advice to the provincial and federal governments. However, it doesn't have the power to make any direct changes to the project.

Project gets mixed reviews

Dozens of groups presented to the panel, with many expressing their opposition to the project. Residents like Jennifer Hefler-Elson are afraid this project will damage the river, without much direct benefit to the region. Hefler-Elson said when the power is shipped out of Labrador, there won't be much for people like her.

"They will take and take without giving back to any of us in Labraor. I truly believe that," said Hefler-Elson.

However, amidst opposition to the project by some groups, there is support from others.

"The development will provide direct and indirect jobs and wealth for citizens from across Labrador. Hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, car dealerships," said Carol Best, executive director of the Central Labrador Economic Development Board.

The panel has 90 days to weigh both sides, and come up with recommendations.