competence at the site of the estimated $7.7 billion Muskrat Falls Project is
being called into question again.

different sources have confirmed to this Blogger that a major management
screw-up, in late December, will almost certainly
delay the start of the next phase of the project and Project Completion.

Christmas revelry seems to have caused Nalcor management to forget about a
critical pumping system essential to maintaining the construction schedule.

All last
year, huge equipment performed mass excavation to remove six million cubic
meters of rock, according to Nalcor figures, creating a giant hole where the
power house and spillways of the dam will be built.

Large pumps
had been installed to keep the “giant hole” dry in anticipation of Astaldi’s
arrival at the Project.  Astaldi Canada
is the Italian Contractor awarded the $1 billion contract to build the
powerhouse, intake, gated spillway and transition structures. 

The site is
situated within mere meters of the Churchill River.
  Fissures in the rock permit river water to
penetrate the formation, as it might any unmaintained excavated pit.
  Snow melt and rain water help fill it,
  Temperatures in the Happy Valley
region, during Christmas, fell into the -30° or lower range.

When the
workforce temporally abandoned the site for the Holidays, it seems no one was
put in charge of keeping the pumps running which are needed to keep the excavation from filling
with water.   

What happened? 

Following a
major snow fall, the road to the construction site did not get plowed. 

The  re-supply truck was unable to reach the site to deliver fuel oil.  The water pumps are gas driven. Nalcor did not have an emergency supply of fuel on

So the pumps

That’s what
happens when unqualified people get to run big projects.

giant, partly water-filled, crater has turned to ice.  Now penetrating the cracks in the rock , the
ice is virtually impossible to mechanically remove.   Melting is the only real solution to the

Nalcor made
no announcement about this management “oversight” or what it all means for the
project .  But, Astaldi is sure to suffer
delay in placing the estimated 500,000 cubic metres of concrete required for
the structures.

Spring does
not come early to Labrador.

Nalcor ought
to make a full report on such a critical operational failure; it must also inform
the public how much delay it represents for the Muskrat Falls Project. 

One thing is
clear.   Such a basic oversight again calls into
question the most fundamental management skills of Nalcor, as Project Managers.  If management is not strong enough to ensure
simple procedures are in place to plough a road, arrange fuel delivery and keep
vital pumping operations going 24 hours per day, it has no business pretending
it has the management skills to bring a large mega-project to fruition on time
and on budget.

close to the Project state that Nalcor  has lacked a senior Manager right from the
beginning; one skilled and experienced in large-scale construction management, located
on the Site, not in St. John’s.   That
Project Manager must be capable of dealing with bureaucrats at Nalcor who want
to operate from St. John’s. 

He/she must
possess not just the skillset to knowledgeably execute on essential
logistics.  That person must have the authority to
take fundamental operational decisions. 

But a new
project manager would not be not nearly enough even assuming that Muskrat can
be justified.

Nalcor needs
a full clean out of its executive offices. Corporate Bureaucrats and a plethora
of managers with oil industry experience don’t fit the bill on a mega-construction
project up in Labrador. 

The cash
register rings on Muskrat’s cost over-runs.

This is
certainly not good news from the field.
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.


Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

If CFLCo is required to maximize its profit, then CFLCo should sell its electricity to the highest bidder(s) on the most advantageous terms available.


This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?


  1. I can not comment on this piece of information as depressing as it sounds.

    However, what amazed me was that in the recent blackouts it was released by Danny D. in the media that the third line at ~250 million would be the largest project ever managed by Nalcor. It is amazing that any organization would jump a order of magnitude in project size. There may be people who have big project experience, but it is not in hydro electric projects.

    People may say Project Management skills are transferrable between industries. I do not agree with that school of thought.

    This may be rumor, but it justifies a response from Nalcor.

    Much like the management agreement which Brad Cabana is reporting on his blog.

    Where are the media?

  2. I worked on dam building on the Upper Churchill, mostly doing soil compaction analysis. Worked under Ken Weir , and engineer from California, the Becthel group. I friend on mine Eddie Janes from Upper island Cove manned the pumps, assuring they had fuel and kept running, so we had the chance to chat at times. His job to me seemed boring, yet it was an essential one, and that was in summer time when I was there. Can this story at MF be real? If so it shows incompetence big time. And we have a "cable guy" in charge? Eddie Janes, a very comical guy, could tell them a thing or to about how to keep the pumps running. And don't forget all the pumps keeping the North Spur from colapasing! Winston Adams

  3. Next time a Conservative with a Blue Suit comes to town selling Mega Projects that places the long-term costs onto Taxpayers, make sure that his Tie is not Red & tell him Rent-Seeking is CORPORATE WELFARE & it is not a Conservative Principle.

    If MFP is a profitable project on its own merits, the banks, private sector, & shareholders can risk their money for future profit instead of risking the Taxpayers money for future tax & rate increases.

    The Winners – Banks, Construction & Engineering & Other Connected Companies that stand to benefit from the Tax-Funded Muskrat Falls Project. Newfoundland Taxpayers will enjoy Future Tax Increases with future Power Rate Increases making its Power the Highest Power Prices in North America – Are you familiar with the term "Energy-Poverty"…do a search.

    Going forward, keep a Keen Eye on Who is to Profit & Scrutinize Every Nickel – It's Not the Government's Money – It's the Taxpayer's Money…the Government doesn't have Any Money.

    "creating jobs that are permanent, in the long term, and sustainable"

    "But beyond profit, Prentice argues that Canada would benefit from job creation across the country, a surge in export potential, and a reputation for being a clean-energy power — all without running up the government debt."

    "Plus, governments need to stand by with loan guarantees if need be, Prentice added"

    "He noted that while some critics say a mega-project should not proceed unless it can be supported solely by the private sector, Canada has a history of leveraging government support for long-term benefit."

    "According to Prentice, the financial risk associated with the project will be worth the long-term benefits."

    "Our bank is vitally interested in these issues. That is why I speak about these issues,"

  4. if this is true , then it makes sense why we had trouble with power outages in the first week of this year . Ice or not , no man on site , come on Nalcor thats not good enough .The tax payers aswell as paying 10.945/kwh in this province deserve better.Come on media you got to jump on this one .

  5. Ms. Dunderdale should remember, this is Newfoundland, not Disney Land…and upon return from her vacation not to get lost in Ferryland; do not wish to subject the residents of Ferryland to the aforementioned management practices of her Crown Corp to their community.

  6. There is fresh news out of Disney Land that Premier Dunderdale negotiated a fair deal purchasing the Russian Cruise Ship the "Lyubov Orlova"…she has plans to repatriate the Orlova to its rightful place tied to the dock in St. John's Harbor as a welcome-home present to the voters of the Capital.
    Rumor has it, from well-connected sources, there are plans to offer year-round all-inclusive round-trip cruises from the Capital to Ferryland tagged as the Dunderdale Reality Cruise to assist in offsetting the cost while diverting attention from the Muskrat Falls Project.

  7. There are rumors of a change of the tory guard. Perhaps Brian Peckford can be recruited for his previous knowledge and experience launching and managing industrial greenhouse projects.
    If so, he can help get Muskrat out of the ice and back on course while guiding the development to a bright future of powering a multitude of green greenhouses across the island strategically connected to the MFP transmission system powered with really world-class expensive energy for the best cucumbers and tomatoes that green hydro power can buy for the Newfoundland taxpayers.