Nfld. & Labrador

'We're expecting to camp out until they realize we're not moving': Protest continues at Muskrat Falls

Protesters are camping and rallying this weekend at the Muskrat Falls project site in attempt to prevent scheduled flooding, which they feel is a health risk to humans and wildlife.

Close to 200 protesters gathered Saturday, about 30 there early Sunday morning

Protesters blocking the main gate at Muskrat Falls Sunday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

A protest at Muskrat Falls hyrdroelectric project in Labrador that started Saturday is continuing with no signs of slowing down.

Organizers told CBC they will continue to block the site, even going so far as to not let first responders, sewage vehicles and other essential services such as fuel trucks from going in or out of the facility.

Some at the protest said Nalcor had begun bringing in workers by helicopter, though the company could not confirm or deny that.

"In a couple days they'll have to shut down," said Andrea Anderson, who helped plan Saturday's action. "If this is the way we're going to have to get this shut down so that Nalcor can listen to what we'll have to stay then that's what we'll do."

Final attempt

The protesters are making a final effort to stop Nalcor Energy from flooding the reservoir, which could begin any day and which some fear could lead to methylmercury poisoning in humans and wildlife.

"To proceed with flooding without fully clearing will clearly violate our human and indigenous rights," Nunatsiavut president Johannes Lampe said in a statement Friday requesting for the project to be stopped.

On Sunday a Nalcor spokesperson said the protesters have stopped hundreds of workers from entering the site.

While priority and essential work at the Muskrat Fall site is proceeding, the local day shift workers were prevented from working this morning, Nalcor Communications Manager Karen O'Neill said.

"We are staying until the site shuts down," one protester told CBC News on Sunday morning.

"We turned down every vehicle so far. People can leave the site but nobody's going in. We're expecting to camp out until they realize we're not moving."

Andrea Anderson, a protester, said the group needed to take a "more aggressive approach" so she organized a location change from the north spur to the main gate.

Andrea Anderson says the protesters are at the main gate because they needed to take a "more aggressive" approach. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Protesters have set up camp, with tents and stoves on hand. Members of the RCMP are also on site.

"As long as the cops don't put me in jail, I'm here," said Rigolet protester Charlotte Wolfrey.

Protester Tony Wolfrey Sr., also from Rigolet, said he relies on the animals in the area for food.

"I grew up on wild food. That's what I like. I can't afford to go to the store and buy a $50 turkey, you know. It's not possible," he said.

"If they don't clear cut it then it's only a matter of time before they start poisoning our people."

Tony Wolfrey Sr. from Rigolet has been on the Muskrat Falls site since about 5 a.m. Sunday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Wolfrey Sr. said he has been on site protesting since about 5 a.m. He said they turned away seven buses and a number of work vehicles. 

O'Neill said the buses turned away were full of workers.

"The protesters impeded the local workers on buses from upper Lake Melville for the morning shift from accessing the work site this morning," she said.

Flooding the reservoir has not yet started, though Nalcor advised that raising the water levels could begin anytime on or after Oct. 15, O'Neill said.

She also pointed out that it isn't just one activity that creates the reservoir.

"Much like the process for river diversion completed earlier this summer, creating the reservoir involves a number of steps over a period of time," O'Neill said.

"Impoundment will take place when all facilities and equipment are ready for operation."

One protester says she and about 30 others have turned away every vehicle entering the Muskrat Falls site early Sunday morning. (Submitted)

Preparing for the impoundment is ongoing at the Lower Churchill Project.

This work includes "building up the rock cofferdam, finalizing all remaining work in the spillway, and preparing for the installation of log booms upstream of the dam," O'Neill said.