Nfld. & Labrador

Happy Valley-Goose Bay residents voice concerns about North Spur emergency plan

Nalcor made clear its desire to focus on concerns about the stability of Muskrat Fall’s natural dam — the North Spur — at Tuesday night’s public meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, but it was evident from the onset that attendees had a broader agenda.

A similar meeting scheduled for Wednesday in Mud Lake

A group gathers outside the Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay ahead of Nalcor's public meeting Tuesday night. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Nalcor made clear Tuesday night its desire to focus on concerns about the stability of the North Spur natural dam at the Muskrat Falls site.

But it was evident at a public meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay that those attending had a broader agenda.

We are here to stand against you and we will continue to do that.- Kirk Lethbridge

Before introductions were made, a string of audience members marched onto the stage.

Nalcor's panel of experts had just taken their seats when drumming and chanting began outside the Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre theatre entrance.

"We have a message for Nalcor tonight," Kirk Letbridge said to cheers from the roughly 100 spectators.

"We are here to stand against you and we will continue to do that."

The people on stage then joined the rest of the group in the audience.

Greg Snyder, engineering manager for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, gave a 20-minute presentation on the status of work at the North Spur site.

Roughly 100 people attended the public meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Tuesday. A second meeting is scheduled to take place Wednesday in Mud Lake. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Some of the presentation included details about the dam safety program and inspections, as well as the instruments and tools used to track the dam.

Engineering firm Hatch is also conducting a third-party review and an audit of the dam safety program to make sure it "is the highest level of safety that can be achieved," according to Snyder.

Evacuation plan concerns

After Snyder finished Nalcor's presentation, the floor was open to questions — one of the first of which was focused on the evacuation plan for communities near the North Spur, should the dam break.

"The North Spur is not going to breech," Snyder said, eliciting yells from the audience.

Nalcor representatives said there's a phone calling system in place in an emergency, and media and police would be notified in case of a dam break. This caused another uproar.

"Four o'clock in the morning, I can guarantee you there's not going to be too many people in the valley that's going to be listening to the radio or listening for an RCMP officer to be knocking on their door," attendee Roy Blake said.

"I really sincerely believe if you had a siren system... you would hear it. And people would know."

Nalcor communications officer Deanne Fisher asked the crowd what their suggestions for potential solutions would be, prompting calls for the project to be shut down entirely.

Town council frustrated

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook attended the meeting.

What we want is some action.- Jamie Snook

He was singled out by someone in the crowd who said Nalcor should be meeting with community and municipality leaders to provide details on the emergency preparedness plan.

"We're to the point where our town council is frankly frustrated to have another meeting. What we want is some action," Snook said.

"We don't think taxpayers in this town should have to pay for all the damages and emergency response measures that have to be put in place for this company."

Snook said Nalcor needs to take more responsibility, adding he will be asking the company to help with infrastructure like roads.

Nalcor asked to drop court case

As the meeting pushed past the three hour mark, the crowd asked that the court case be dropped against protesters who broke the injunction at Muskrat Falls in October.

"It's something that's been discussed," said Fisher, adding that the request would be brought to Nalcor's CEO and legal team.

"Experts here and I are taking this information back. We're here to listen and take your concerns...some of it is within our control but some of it is not."