Cabot Martin, the well-known lawyer who served as a
Senior Advisor to Premiers Moores, Peckford and Wells, recently released, a 91 page Power Point Presentation entitled: The North Spur Quick Clay Instability & Landslide Problem: The Weak Link in Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls Project .
Report? Can I get the essence of what
Martin is describing, without hiring a sitter for the day? I will tell you how.
But, first, a couple of comments are in order.
Cabot Martin approaches his Presentation, using a
volume of research as deep as the “Quick Clay”, to which the ‘North Spur’ is
host. He works with a seriousness of
purpose that suggests he may be cross examined by the Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court. His style contains a clarity that presumes a lay person, someone
who is not a geologist, has an equal right to a straightforward explanation of
the problem, alongside the scientist.
have never heard of “Quick Clay”. It is glacio-marine
clay, as Martin notes, with “peculiar properties that make them infamous as a
cause of massive rapid landslides”; the clay material is inherently unstable
and can turn into a liquid state. (Visual
proof is provided in a Norwegian video of an actual disaster, noted in the
Report and found on You Tube, called “The RISSA Video”; it is so highly
regarded that it used, in Universities, for training. It is fascinating to watch the earth
turn into a liquid, and horrifying, too!).
shoreline of the lower Churchill River Valley, including on the site of the
proposed Muskrat Falls Project.
either. The North Spur is a barrier, projecting into the Churchill River, providing
a natural dam for the Muskrat Falls Project. The feature is composed, at least in part, of
the same unstable material as “Quick Clay”.
there is no Muskrat Falls.
that time. As recently as 2010, a major landslide occurred up river from Muskrat
at Edward’s Island.
This instability issue was noted in MHI’s Final Report. Nalcor had
committed to the Joint Environmental Review Panel, and to the PUB, that it would study
the problem in 2012, but failed to do so.
The Minister of Natural Resources recently acknowledged, in the House of
Assembly, that he is aware of the problem and that the engineering work is
going to be done this year. In other
words, ‘we are going to now study the problem to see what we are going to do’.
point, the Government doesn’t know if the problem can be managed. Meantime, the Project is sanctioned and
Government is spending billions of dollars as Muskrat is advanced.
Cabot Martin’s Report is unusual, not for its
thoroughness or its overwhelming evidence that a multi-billion dollar hydro
facility is being constructed on geologically unstable ground; what is unusual is that he is noticeably
reserved in his judgement of how we have arrived at this point. Cabot is not known for keeping his views to
himself. This time, he knows the facts
are enough; alone, they have a glacial weight.
zero financial reward to compile the exhaustive (and highly readable) Presentation, I
think Martin’s purpose was three-fold:
document and form their own opinion on whether the Government and Nalcor have
inextricably linked to the Muskrat Falls Project, on notice: The Prime Minister, the Premier, the
Provincial Cabinet, NALCOR, the Province of Nova Scotia, EMERA, the Bond Rating
Agencies, the Banks who will raise the bonds, SNC Lavalin, the Federal
Government’s Independent Engineer, The Association of Professional Engineers
and Geoscientists of NL, the plethora of Engineers, some of whom will have to
put their professional careers on the line as they place their “Stamp” of Certification
on the remediation measures taken; all of them, and others, will have to answer
if they have been complicit in the seemingly senseless rush to get Muskrat under
way, at any price.
can inspire governments to stop what they are doing and listen up; ordinary people
can council caution knowing that they have to pay the mortgage, even
if the house shifts on its foundation. They
can demand that the Project is halted until the problem, of “Quick Clay”, has
been adequately studied. They can insist that a determination is made on whether an economically viable solution is available and
require the preparation of a full Report, by independent experts; one that is released to the
Executive Summary at the beginning of the Presentation.
the “RISSA Video” and watch all of it (or watch it now).
Cabot Martin’s entire Presentation.
which I must ascribe to the astute Professional Engineer, whose ear I bent,
yesterday. Last November, the Government
said engineering design work on Muskrat Falls was 50% complete. With 400 engineers working on the job, he
estimated that the design should now be 65 to 70% completed. By the time Nalcor get the soils testing done
on the North Spur, and a design completed for the “problem”, design,
he stated, will be in excess of 75% complete, or more.
Why, then, was
the very foundation of the project not looked at prior to the completion of all
this detailed engineering design work?