Muskrat Falls protest assembles as Nalcor prepares to flood part of reservoir

Protesters in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are continuing to fight the Muskrat Falls project, despite Nalcor's plan to start initial flooding as early as Oct. 15.

Protesters gathered outside the the Labrador Aboriginal Affairs Office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Friday.

Protesters gather outside the Aboriginal Affairs office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Friday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Protesters in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are continuing to fight the Muskrat Falls project, despite Nalcor's plan to start initial flooding as early as Oct. 15.

"Do you really think that it's not going to harm our fish, our habitat, our way of life?" Roy Blake asked a crowd of about 40 protesters. Blake is the ordinary member for Upper Lake Melville with the Nunatsiavut Government.

The fear, substantiated by a Harvard University study, is that if pre-existing vegetation isn't completely cleared past the top soil, methylmercury levels will spike and impact hundreds of Inuit.

Protester Laura Chaulk holds a handmade sign at Friday's Muskrat Falls protest. (Katie Breen/CBC)
Nobody is listening.- Debbie Michelin, protester

According to the provincial government, Muskrat Falls won't pose a risk to people living in Lake Melville.

In a news release, the Nunatsiavut Government said Premier Dwight Ball "indicated that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador would not force Nalcor to fully clear the reservoir prior to initial flooding."

"We advised the Premier that our position has not changed, and that the entire reservoir must be fully cleared of trees, vegetation and topsoil before any flooding takes place."

A Harvard University study released earlier this year said methylmercury would have a greater impact on the people in Rigolet because there is a greater reliance on locally-harvested food there. (CBC/Katie Breen)

According to Nalcor's authorized permits, the first phase of flooding would create the headpond at the Muskrat Falls reservoir by raising water levels to 25 meters.

The energy company tweeted Friday that water levels could be raised anytime on or after Oct. 15.

'Nobody is listening'

According to its statement, the Nunatsiavut Government said the premier "did commit to immediately begin the process of examining the feasibility of fully clearing the remaining 75 per cent of the reservoir before full impoundment."

It went on to state that the second phase of flooding is expected to happen sometime in 2019.

The microphone was open to anyone who wanted to share their concerns related to Muskrat Falls. Many spoke about methylmercury levels. (CBC/Katie Breen)

"We gotta stop this, and we can," said protester Kirk Lethbridge

​"One of the most pristine places on the face of the earth is being destroyed and nobody is listening," said fellow protester Debbie Michelin.

The Nunatsiavut Government has made other environmental recommendations in addition to the position that the reservoir must be clear cut prior to flooding.

It wants more decision-making authority, an impact management agreement and an independent advisory committee to monitor the environment and health impacts of Muskrat Falls.

Nunatsiavut said the premier has committed to further discussions on those three recommendations.