Labrador man stunned by water levels from flooding reservoir at Muskrat Falls
Trees underwater as Nalcor begins the planned work, after years of controversy
One week after Nalcor started flooding the reservoir for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, the sight of trees under water is shocking some residents.
"I'm stunfounded by seeing everything being flooded here," said Curtis Saunders, taking in the flooding woods for the first time Tuesday.
Saunders said his family has lived in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for three generations, and as a Nunatsiavut beneficiary he's proud of the stand his government has taken against the Muskrat Falls project.
"Yes, it did create a lot of employment, yes. No doubt about it, it's got its good and it's got its bad. But I think the bad overall reflects the people of Labrador, how they feel."
Although Saunders himself is not a trapper, he said his family's way of life has long revolved around the river — canoeing and trapping there — and that's all changed.
"Not only my brother and my family, but there's also elders from previous years from North West River, from Mud Lake. This was their river, this was their livelihood in those days," he said.
"And seeing it going underwater now, it's sad."
Tilt washed away
Photos posted to Facebook on Monday show an old cabin — also called a tilt — that belonged to a trapper's family for generations, caught up in a safety boom meant to catch debris as it washed downstream.
Nalcor said structures such as that hut were identified during the environmental assessment for the project, and in 2009 people started getting notices about removing those within the flooding area.
A spokesperson said Nalcor worked with cabin owners who held licences from the provincial government to occupy Crown land, and shared removal notices with those who did not.
"Nalcor is aware that some remote structures that were built on Crown land without title were not removed by the owner prior to impoundment," the spokesperson said.
One of them was caught by the debris boom Monday and removed from the river.
The Crown corporation said it has shared details of the flooding plans required for generating electricity at Muskrat Falls and will continue issuing regular updates.
In contrast to the high levels of water above the dam, below it the water levels are significantly lower than they have been, with Saunders noting he could walk where he never had before.
"Speak to the people along the river bank and they'll tell you the same thing," he said.
With files from Jacob Barker