Nfld. & Labrador

Water levels begin to rise at Muskrat Falls

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball confirmed late Saturday that the water levels have started to rise at Muskrat Falls.
Premier Dwight Ball says Nalcor has begun initial flooding of the reservoir at Muskrat Falls (Nalcor Energy)

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball confirmed late Saturday that the water levels have started to rise at Muskrat Falls.

"We've lifted that restriction today, so Nalcor is in the position to start raising water levels to what you'd normally see in spring conditions," said Ball.

The initial flooding at the hydroelectric facility under construction in Labrador was on hold while Indigenous groups examined the engineering reports prepared for Nalcor that showed the river level needs to rise in order to prevent ice on the river from damaging the infrastructure.

It was part of a deal reached at a marathon meeting between the premier and Indigenous groups early on Oct. 26 over health concerns. The groups are concerned about the effect of the methylmercury released when the land is flooded and organic material decomposes, and works its way into the seals, fish and birds that they eat.

The groups want to keep flooding to a minimum to reduce mercury levels.

"Our objective is to work with the Indigenous leaders to keep water levels as low as possible and we'll do that," he said.

Premier Dwight Ball talks with reporters about allowing flooding to begin at Muskrat Falls (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Dispute over how much flooding needed

In a news release, the Indigenous groups agreed that flooding is needed before ice forms on the river, but aren't convinced the level of the river needs to be brought up to the 25-metre level that Nalcor says is needed.

An expert hired by the Indigenous groups wrote it's possible flooding to only 23 metres may be possible if changes are made, such as making the temporary dam higher.

Right now, Ball said the river level will only rise to the same height as spring flooding.

He said engineering company Hatch will be hired to work with all groups to figure out what flooding level is necessary.

Ball repeated Saturday that the water level will be brought back down next spring.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.

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