Hydro Engineer, James L. Gordon has refused a one-on-one briefing proposed by
Nalcor’s Engineering Manager on the Muskrat Falls project.
The invitation to Gordon came from
Muskrat Falls Manager of engineering, Greg Snyder.

Nalcor proposed to hold the meeting
at SNC Offices in Montreal.
Gordon has been an outspoken critic who
insists the remediation plans for the North Spur require assessment by a competent Review Board

In turning down his offer, Gordon told Snyder “there are many others that need assurance from an independent Review Board that the North Spur dam design is correct.”
Gordon has worked
on 113 hydro projects throughout the world and is the recipient of several
awards for “excellence in design”. He fears
that Nalcor’s remediation plans have not been designed by experts who have
extensive experience in marine clays.

hydro engineering icon has posted on this Blog and written
the Telegram in an
effort to draw public attention to the stability of the North Spur and to the
value of having a “Blue Ribbon” panel review Nalcor’s design.

Spur is a natural feature that extends into the Churchill River, from the north.
The Spur constitutes roughly 50% of the Muskrat Falls dam. Two proposed Nalcor concrete
dams will complete the structure.
North Spur contains a
type of clay called “Quick Clay” which is in a class called “sensitive” clays.
Quick Clay has the ability to liquefy under certain conditions,
and to cause landslides. A landslide induced collapse of the dam would
constitute a catastrophe for the Muskrat Falls project and pose life safety
risks for residents living downstream of the project.
an email to Jim Gordon, the lead Nalcor engineer, Greg Snyder, said: “we value
your opinion on the project, and would like to have the opportunity to give you
an in depth presentation….In particular”, Snyder stated, “we can address the
concerns raised by (Dr. Stig) Bernander on the issues around landslides.”
Bernander, is a Swedish geoscientist and internationally recognized expert on
Quick Clay. His 
research led to new methodologies for assessing Quick Clay risk.. He conducted field work at the North Spur in 2014 and lectured at
the LSPU Hall and at the Engineering School, Memorial University. Nalcor V-P,
Gilbert Bennett attended the MUN Lecture but did not invite Bernander to review Nalcor’s
informed the Nalcor engineer by return email:

Gordon goes on to suggest that the Review should
be conducted by Dr. Bernander and another retired professor of geotechnical
engineering, such as Dr. N. R. Morgenstern from the University of Alberta, who
recently chaired the failure panel studying the cause of the central British
Columbia Mine disaster, known as Mount Polley Dam. The Dam expert also proposed
that a third senior geotechnical engineer, selected by mutual agreement between
the other two Review Board members, should complete the Panel.

Gordon told Uncle Gnarley Blog that the
design of the North Spur dam is without precedent, and that the consequences of
failure are catastrophic. He reiterated, as he had previously, that only an independent
panel of experts – a Review Board – is capable of assuring Nalcor’s design for
the North Spur is acceptable.
Related to this Post:

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.


If a Big Mac costs McDonalds $10 to produce and it is sold for $1.50, McDonalds will go out of business. They would not declare a profit!


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.


  1. What is behind NALCO's plan to NOT appoint a Review Board as opposed to have Mr.Gordon discuss the issue face-to-face? Jim's views are known by his convincing blogs and NALCO are unable to take the hint and save their skins. NALCO please appoint a Panel and save a disaster.

  2. Nalcor have been slow to release any information on the North Spur. the reason is that it is still being done! The reports which they have been putting up to their website, would have wet ink if they were not electronic. I find this public discussion of the engineering practice to be concerning. PEGNL should make comment, instead of being the reactive, irrelevant organization they are.

    • PEG is that nasty stuff used to clean out the bowels before a doctor will examine the colon. Or it can be used for one who is hard in the bowels. Once the bowel exam is done, one is put into a room with others to let off a lot of farts, and everyone laughs at the sounds, and the nurse will check and smile and ask if your gas has released yet. Since the bowels are clean, there is no odour to the farts. And while PEG is really a anti-freeze, it is non toxic ,so safe to use.
      So here`s a question: If all the members of PEGNL gathered on the North Spur, and had a bowel cleaning by the ususal PEG medicine, and then all farted together the usual hot air which must get released (in the procedure,some air is pumped in to expand the bowel to allow good visual checks with a tiny camaera,to check of poor structure, cracks, improper leaks etc), one could monitor the intensity and frequency of this giant fart, while at the same time checking the impact on water seepage in the sand and marine clay material of the North Spur, as well as ground vibration and other critical engineering data data. The purpose of course is to test the North Spur for stability, since if it could survive such a test with no evidence of collapse, then surely the safety factor against earth tremors,random earth slides upstream, or increased water pressure from increased head pressure of the river, would be considerably less then this evidence based method of safety testing by PEG. This would settle this issue once and for all, making an expert panels of engineers unnecessary. This improved method is being considered all over Norway and Sweden where marine clay is a serious issue, but there are sceptics to this approach. There is the real risk that the fart blast could indeed trigger a collapse, and the total membership of PEGNL not have time to make their escape, and what a loss that would be. Their input to the importance of this issue as to public safety would be finished. Their public pronouncements on this vital matter would end. Where would we then look for guidance when future technical questions must go unanswered, hanging on a hope and a prayer.