Nfld. & Labrador

Let's try this again: Muskrat Falls transformers heading to Cartwright

Nalcor Energy announced Thursday that it is ready to ship seven huge transformers by barge to Cartwright and then over land to Muskrat Falls.

First shipment to Labrador planned for last fall was delayed by protests over methylmercury

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

Nalcor Energy announced Thursday that it is ready to ship seven huge electrical transformers by barge to Cartwright and then over land to Muskrat Falls.

The first of two shipments out of the marine base in Bay Bulls, south of St. John's, is set for next week. Nalcor expects the equipment to be at the hydroelectric project by late September.

The sea leg of the journey to Labrador will take three to five days, according to the Crown corporation. After that, four separate road trips are needed to get the transformers from Cartwright to Muskrat Falls. 

Each round trip from southern Labrador to the project site will take one to two weeks.
Cartwright Mayor Dwight Lethbridge at entrance to Muskrat Falls site in November. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"We've been working closely with General Electric, the contractor supplying and delivering the transformers, to ensure the transportation operation is carried out with minimal disruption to the public while ensuring the safety of the public and workers involved," said project manager Stephen Follett.

"The road transports will be very slow moving and controlled, with Safety First contracted to travel with each shipment to provide traffic management." 

[Cartwright] does not have the jurisdiction to stop the movement of goods through the town.- Mayor Dwight Lethbridge

Nalcor had hoped to move the 200-tonne transformers last fall, but residents voted at a public meeting in November to

stop the move in a dispute over how much soil and vegetation would be removed from the Muskrat Falls reservoir.

The town demanded there be clearcutting in a move to reduce methylmercury levels in the water.

Cartwright Mayor Dwight Lethbridge told CBC News at the time that the town was also worried its roads and infrastructure wouldn't be able to handle such a heavy load.

Lingering concerns

The town's Facebook page says council met with Nalcor staff on May 2 to talk about the timing of the shipments this summer. It said surveyors had mapped out the location of an oil pipe that runs under the road as "an environmental precaution."

The mayor wrote in a post just after the meeting with Nalcor that while there are many views on the project, "the Cartwright Town Council does not have the jurisdiction to stop the movement of goods through the town if they are not breaking laws."

The people will ultimately decide to handle the shipment however they see fit.- Cartwright Mayor Dwight Lethbridge

He pointed out the benefits — up to 40 people working in the area, who would need food and accommodations, possibly renting out the school gymnasium.

But, in an acknowledgement of the prickly relationship between Labradorians and the company behind the Muskrat Falls project, Lethbridge wrote that council couldn't guarantee there will not be any protests this time.

"We told them the people will ultimately decide to handle the shipment however they see fit. They say that they respect that and hope to build better relationships."

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