Nfld. & Labrador

Engineer changes mind, deems Muskrat's North Spur 'perfectly safe'

A retired engineer who previously sounded the alarm about the stability of the North Spur now says that part of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project is safe.

Jim Gordon, retired hydropower consultant, previously voiced concerns about stability

The transmission line on the North Spur, near Muskrat Falls. (Nalcor Energy)

A retired engineer who previously sounded the alarm about the stability of the North Spur now says that portion of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project will hold.

"At the time, I did not have all the information," former hydropower consultant Jim Gordon said.

I did not have all the information.- Jim Gordon, retired engineer

The North Spur is a jut of rock and soil that is being reinforced with concrete to bear the weight of the Muskrat Falls reservoir.

Gordon said he based his initial assessment on a report from European engineer Stig Bernander and the independently published book, Muskrat Madness.

But he's since sought further information.

In-depth look

Gordon reached out to former colleagues at Hatch Engineering, the company hired to review North Spur reports completed by SNC-Lavalin — the  group overseeing the megaproject's construction in Labrador.

Jim Gordon has changed his mind on the North Spur. He now thinks's the natural dam at Muskrat Falls will hold. (Submitted)

"I respected their opinions," he said. "I should look to see if I'm wrong and everybody else is right."

I think the dam is perfectly safe.- Jim Gordon, retired engineer

With that, Gordon said he went back over Bernander's findings, comparing them to an Amec study on the 2010 Edward's Island Landslide.

He said he realized Bernander had "misinterpreted" the type of landslide that had occurred.

"You revise your opinion when you find you're wrong," Gordon said.

Revised opinion cited by minister

Gordon feels confident about the stabilization work done at the North Spur, after he had a chance to talk about it with former colleague Sean Hinchberger.

"When I was calling for a review board, he was my first name on the list as being chairman, but he's already reviewed it," Gordon said.

"So I think the dam is perfectly safe."

"​The design solution for the North Spur has been addressed in over 30 engineering studies and the geotechnical conditions at the North Spur are well understood by Nalcor Energy and its engineering consultants," said the province's Minister of Natural Resources, Siobhan Coady, in a statement Thursday evening.

Coady referenced Gordon's change of opinion and directed people to the Nalcor website to read his revised assessment and other reports on the North Spur.