Transformers destined for Muskrat Falls delayed until next spring

Nalcor will not be shipping seven, 200-tonne transformers through Cartwright to the Muskrat Falls project. It says that part of the project has been delayed until next year because of protests.

Nalcor says shipping will take place after spring thaw

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

Seven, 200-tonne transformers destined for the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric project will not be making the trip this year.

The transformers were supposed to make their way on two barges from Bay Bulls, Newfoundland to Cartwright, Labrador before protests broke out at the Muskrat Falls site in October.

Following a unanimous vote of about 40 people at a public meeting, Cartwright's council told Nalcor there would be "on the ground action" if there was an attempt to use the town's port for transportation of the transformers if concerns around methyl mercury weren't addressed.

"I think the residents are proud to have played the role that they did and go in there and put some boots on the ground as well as make a statement about what would happen in our own community if things weren't dealt with," Cartwright Mayor Dwight Lethbridge told the CBC.

Cartwright Mayor Dwight Lethbridge at entrance to Muskrat Falls site. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The community held a meeting since Labrador's 3 indigenous leaders made a deal with the Premier Dwight Ball to address methylmercury concerns. Lethbridge says there are lots of mixed feelings over the deal.

"Until we see it carried out, there certainly is a lot of room for skepticism. One good thing about it being put off until next season [is it] gives us time to see how much traction these agreements have, how well they're being followed," he said.

"Right about the time that our shipping lanes will be reopening will also be about the time they should be letting all the water back out of that first reservoir impoundment."

Nalcor says it was the threat of protests in Cartwright and the protests at the site which led to the decision not to move the transformers this year. They will now be shipped "when safe to do so following the ice thaw in the spring."

Protest always up to people

Lethbridge says the biggest issue raised in the last meeting with the community were for those facing the possibility of being held in contempt of court.

He says right now he doesn't envision any issues when the transformers do eventually make their way through Cartwright, but also points out it isn't up to him.

"The protest will always be up to the people regardless of what I say or what our town council puts out there as a message to Nalcor. We can't control what goes on when the time actually comes," he said.

"I'm certainly not willing to say that something else won't bring everyone together, the next time Nalcor or the government makes an effort to come through Cartwright."

With files from Bailey White