Nfld. & Labrador

Protesters march on Muskrat Falls site in final effort to stop reservoir flooding

Almost 200 people marched towards the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric site on Saturday to protest the scheduled start of flooding in the area.

Organizers say many had tents and sleeping bags with them and plan to spend night near spillway

Dozens of protesters walk towards the North Spur site of the Muskrat Falls project on Saturday. (Twitter/@JacindaBeals)

Close to 200 protesters marched for hours down the Trans-Labrador Highway towards the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric site on Saturday to protest the scheduled start of flooding in the area.

A source told CBC News that work at the site had stopped by 4:30 p.m. as protestors moved through the area and towards the spillway. Organizers of the protest also told CBC that some even brought tents and sleeping bags — and planned to spend the night camped near the river.

The rally comes after several communities and groups have come out against the project, arguing that Nalcor is not taking necessary precautions to protect people and wildlife from possible methylmercury poisoning.

Opposition to the project ratcheted up Thursday when Inuk artist Billy Gauthier announced he was going on an indefinite hunger strike if Nalcor flooded the Muskrat Falls reservoir without properly clearing the area of vegetation first.

Looking for national attention

A group called Make Muskrat Right, as well as the Rigolet Inuit Community Government promoted Saturday's protest, and photos on social media showed well over 100 people walking to the North Spur site at Muskrat Falls, carrying signs showing solidarity with those speaking out against the project, such as Billy Gauthier.

Members of the Make Muskrat Right Committee told CBC News that many of those marching planned to stay for days to camp near the river in an attempt to 'take back the land" and stop the planned flooding. 

"What is seen as a local issue is now gaining much needed provincial and national attention," the committee wrote in a press release prior to the march.

"The negative impact of this hydroelectric development project on Indigenous rights and self-determination has sparked a national call to action."