Guest Post Written by Cabot Martin

As you read this, various crews at Muskrat Falls
are involved in a potentially life and death struggle to contain the raging
Lower Churchill River.

They face a leaking coffer dam and rafting ice
backed by river flows that, in volume, are 25% greater than those at the mighty
Upper Churchill.

The greatest period of risk may well be the next
three weeks – they are racing Old Man Winter – 
time is of the essence.

We can only wish them well.

Unfortunately Nalcor has not adequately
documented and explained the various “during construction” flood
risks posed  to downstream residents.

However, we know enough to say that those risks ,
whether from collapse of the coffer dam or failure of the North Spur, are real
and substantial enough to warrant immediate action on the evacuation front.

Concern for these risks can no longer be dismissed
as “fear-mongering” as was the case by the Minister responsible for
Dam Safety over a year and a half ago.

Indeed, the basic problem is known to many in the
halls of power, each with varying degrees of responsibility.

Uncle Gnarley’s latest piece records the
Independent Engineer’s recent graphic description of how Nalcor’s Muskrat
actions do not meet acceptable engineering standards across a broad range of
issues -a refreshing bit of candor indeed; please read as a companion to this

In particular, the Independent Engineer’s
documentation of Nalcor’s  cavalier
attitude to North Spur geotechnical issues presents a picture of what only be
described as reckless behaviour in not keeping a sharp eye on Muskrat’s biggest
overall project risk – failure of the North Spur.

Yet, apparently senior Nalcor and relevant
governmental officials , presumably relying on legal advice, do not consider
these and their other North Spur actions egregious enough to bring them within
the realm of a reckless or public endangerment prosecution under the Criminal
Code should lives be lost.

Must be a queasy feeling.

But –
simply put – there isn’t any time right now to debate those issues – as
important as they are.   We need to get
to that after the present danger has passed.

Right now, our immediate focus should be to pray
the North Spur holds, try our best to fix the coffer dam and determine under
what circumstances we should evacuate Mud Lake and how the hell are we going to
do it.

The 50 souls trying to sleep in Mud Lake tonight
deserve that.

It is an old place in Central Labrador, once a
main settlement, home to many old trapping families. It is located on the south
bank of the Churchill River across from the end of a road that leads a couple
of miles up river to Happy Valley/ Goose Bay. This is where in summer Mud
Lakers leave their cars and keep their boats on visits to ” The

Better put, they live on the south bank,
Venice-like, along the banks of a beautiful small winding bayou like river or
large brook that flows out from Mud Lake itself to meet the Churchill River
near where that massive river discharges into Lake Melville.

Lake Melville, denying it’s name , is a giant
inland sea whose tidal rise and fall stretches far up river – in fact more than
25 miles up-river to the very foot of Muskrat Falls – fresh water on top / salt
water below.

At Mud Lake, the Churchill River is about a mile
across  and residents go back and forth
by boat in summer and ski-doo in winter. It is, at the best of times, a
treacherous mile – shifting sand bars in summer and rafting ice during freeze
up and breakup. A complicated marine/river environment with huge natural water
flows – without Muskrat flood levels.

In Mud Lake, the river – it’s mood and state is
always on people’s minds – but never so much as now.

You’d think the safety of 50 people located a
couple of feet above tidewater right in the path of any   Muskrat flood would be a priority –
someone’s priority – anyone’s priority.

But apparently not – things are far from right in
Mud Lake.

For instance, I am told by a reliable source in
Mud Lake that Nalcor has never had a single meeting in that community setting
out and discussing the evacuation plan should the coffer dam fail when they, as
already announced,  recommence filling
the reservoir in the next few weeks.

Not a single meeting.

And as the idea of a “secret ”
evacuation plan is too bizarre even for Nalcor , one can only assume that such
a plan simply does not exist – which circles back ,of course, to “reckless

This must change.

Any reasonable risk assessment process would have
to treat Coffer Dam collapse this winter as a real risk to Mud Lake – one that
will increase with each meter the water rises as the  reservoir filling resumes.

Consequently, Nalcor and the Minister responsible
for Dam Safety (Mr. Perry Trimper) should immediately send senior representatives
to Mud Lake  for Emergency Evacuation
Plan meetings.

They should commit to producing, on a most urgent
basis,  an adequate evacuation plan that
meets the realities of local conditions ( best described through the eyes of
the local residents).

The current plight of the residents of Mud Lake
is representative of all that is wrong with Muskrat Falls. It is a good place
to start to clean up this mess.

God help us if our society is so debased as to be
incapable of this


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. There goes Cabot crying wolf again. I just checked the websites of the main media, The Telegram, the CBC, and VOCM, and not a word on this. Sure Cabot even promoted the idea that there might be, would be, quick clay imbedded in the North Spur that could present a risk, and Nalcor laughed at that.No quick clay. Jim Gordon just confirmed that. And the pictures and stories of quick clay running out of the back of trucks …… fabricated evidence to torment the good folks at Nalcor. Now Cabot is giving them a real belly laugh, for sure.
    And Mud Lake…… who would want to live there, no doubt a mud infested place where no humans should live. We can`t really expect a dam safety person to worry about dam safety. Same as expecting a justice minister to worry about justice. C`ome on man….get real. This is Newfoundland…..The Rock. Be Happy, don`t worry. Let her go for the gullies and all that. The Happy Province, once on our licence plates. We need to bring that back as part of the The Way Forward Plan. And besides, it`s winter now and Christmas Season. Labadorites always managed well in winter…good trapper stock. Who needs an evacuation plan there. Nonsense.
    Winston Adams

    • Winston after the recent US election has the news reached you yet that main stream media are unreliable at best or part of the problem. The fact that nothing has changed at Muskrat Falls should be evidence enough to all of that reality.

    • Well, I posted at morning time, not allowing NTV or CBC TV to report what was newsworthy. NTV led with the TEDDY TOSS story. And CBC had a lot of coverage on contributors to the food sharing program. Emera was there with 10,000.00, a cheque measuring 4 feet long.
      Sure, we may provide a small subsidy to their Nova Scotia Plan to close their coal generation. But 10,000.00 is not chicken feed when it comes to food sharing. And the fact they have been a contributor since 2012, about the time of Muskrat sanction, is mere coincidence, who can deny.
      And CBC with the Snodden weather section keeps showing the Take Charge logo on the weather map, a reminder of the greatest plan in the country to help residents save energy. Just fine corporate citizens doing their bit.
      Not a word on either TV news program on the Cabot wolf cry. Surely all this main media cannot ignore what may be newsworthy, can they! Their first rate investigative journalism would have exposed any serious risks of life and limb, surely. I mean they have done first rate work in this field for four years now. Can we expect more! And advertising income needs to pay overhead and a little profit, remember that.
      I mean Uncle Gnarley, bless his heart, has no overhead and costs for this blog, and his time cannot be all that valuable. Semi-retired I assume, and nothing better to do. If that`s not true, surely he would censor me. I mean, Bruno, we naysayers have been saying the same thing over and over for 4 years now, and no change in result. Does that not suggest a case of insanity on our part, or at least on my part. But I am not keen on absolute positions. And it has been suggested I sometimes have tangential thinking, whatever that means. But in this season, we need keep our spirits up, you would agree. Nothing like hope that all the dams will hold. If not there will be one damm mess.
      Winston Adams

    • Winston the Telegram has been part of the problem with MF from the outset.

      Do you forget that Ashley Fitzpatrick took Nalcor money for a junket to MF. It resulted in a series of glowing stories. This is a violation of the most basic values a journalist should have.

      The Telegram has done nothing but do PR for Nalcor from the outset. They accepted money from Nalcor and are completely compromised.

    • Bruno, be nice to Ashley. She gets upset easily. Besides, I contacted her 4 years ago as to her interest to look into Efficiency issues to reduce the grid peak demand. This was pre-sanction of MF and could save everyone a bundle by my calculations. She promptly replied saying“Absolutely“. Did you miss the pieces showing her journalistic talents on this subject,(although I can`t tell you where to find them, having memory issues since I had my stroke on Thursday) as she is very concerned as to how we can counter the higher power rates will negatively impact customers.
      You have to cut her some slack…. so she took a sandwich from Nalcor, no big deal. Did you not make some money off the pre-sanction studies. And besides, what`s the big deal too if she was partying after midnight in New York to cover the Fortis taking Wall Street. Never heard anyone say Fortis paid any of that, not even a sandwich I bet. She wrote a fine piece on Fortis, and all costs on the Tely nickel, and I bet she will post here to confirm that. She has been very anxious to do some follow up journalistic work on my heating efficiency research. Had several emails from here and she is anxious to go. Even emailed me from New York. I filed with the PUB in April, and this is only December, so I am expecting her very, very soon, to do what she calls a sit down. But I likely will have to stand up, my sitting presented difficulty before my stroke, and is a bit worse now. But I`ll manage that. Made it through with Tom Johnson, who left very impressed. Why did they fire that guy, just as he was coming around. I blame Uncle Gnarley for that, who gave him a public whipping or something. But then he owns this bloody blog, so he can get away with that. Do you know what kind of sandwiches Ashley likes, given I have a small entertainment budget. And besides, if I go overboard, you will get wind of it and do a hatchet job on her. Uncle Gnarley should monitor your naughty comments about Ashley. Fine girl, I think. Wait till you read her pieces on Efficiency, it`ll shut you up. Askley, pro Nalcor, my foot! It is just not nice, Bruno, to refuse a sandwich, when hunger calls. I mean even Russell complains he doesn`t get paid enough to but salmon or steak, and must settle for pork chops. A pauper job, that journalism. Have a heart, Bruno. It being near Christmas and all.

    • Not nice to Ashley? The lengths you go to rationalize a "journalist" who has no professional ethics is astounding.

      Nalcor paid for all her costs. A journalist should know better.

      How many stories has she done exposing the incompetence at Nalcor? On the faulty wire or towers with the wrong foundation or the need for all weather roads, on the threat from quick clay, on the failed coffer dam and its implications, where has sensitive Ashley been?

      You are willing to rationalize ethics violations because you HOPE she will do a story you like? Surely this is another of your weak attempts at humour.

    • Bruno, my son… you once before brought me to my senses. I, like Uncle Gnarley, was willing to give Stan Marshall the benefit of the doubt, for a while. Maurice had called his appointment a mere change of horse. And you, like Maurice, saw straight off, that the boondoggle would continue. I wobbled, and your steered me on the right path a few months ago. Indeed, even Uncle Gnarley finally says now that Marshall is unacceptable.
      But understand, it has now been 4 years and I have not made a dam dime off these billions spent. T`was a time I could make a little here and there on these sensible projects like schools, hospitals, even a Kentucky Fried building. How much should a person be made to suffer. And the saying is, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. So I fear I must become a turncoat, do a pivot, and try for a little of that gravy that Ed Martin talked about. That guy was pretty smart on the gravy issue, you must admit.
      Now as to Ashley, I believe she paid her way to the airport in Torbay, at the Tely`s expense. Just to be factual, Nalcor did not pay it all, if I remember.
      And I forgot, 4 years ago, it was Russell, bless his heart, that published my views…….. Ashley, I had hoped, would do the follow up. So, she is a little late on that. What`s four years. I have patience.
      Now the plan with Ashley is that she write a 3 part piece. My analysis, combined with her writing skills… and knock the skids out from under the idea that Muskrat was least cost. I figure that she could win an award of some sort it would be that good. All my idea of course. I have read that it is easier for an engineer to become a journalist than a journalist an engineer. This may be so, but I know my severe limitations at writing, as compared to technical analysis, for which I had training, and perhaps a little expertise.
      Now see your mistake, Bruno, is that you expect Ashley to do technical analysis on faulty wire, towers, foundations, access roads, coffer dams and even quick clay. A bit much I`d say. I suppose she might seek out alternate opinions from some of the critics and naysayers. But many of these have blogs and in competition with the Tely, in a sense. And how many have actually invited Ashley to look into these issues, and offer her a sandwich. Not many I bet.
      Now agreed, at present I seem to be leaning to pivot, one way or the other, which way I should go on Muskrat. But poor John Smith seems to have been silenced from the Tely, and supporters of Muskrat are getting rare, with the latest setbacks. And if I don`t make a buck on this soon , I will be out of luck.
      My last piece was perhaps harsh on the critics, and the moderator seems to have removed it, least it offend. Fine. This has happened before, but tends to pop on later. If I offended those naysayers, and they prefer it deleted, that is fine. Especially for out of province critics, it may be considered rude on my part. Agreed it is not in keeping with the seriousness of the situation, as you suggest, and just weak humour. But facts and evidence will prevail, and if it comes from the so called lunatic fringe, so what. They may be shown to be scholars and patriotic to a just cause. I salute their courage in such adversity.
      The fact that I even consider switching sides may be due to extreme high blood pressure,and that usually settles. So I may come around.
      But my research can either support or counter Nalcor`s position of Muskrat being least cost. A little tweek here or there can change the outcome, as you probably know, should ethics get in the way. But if I falter, I trust Ashley`s journalistic instincts will be there to keep me on the straight path. Of course, if Ashley does a story that I like, I would HOPE is it a story that you like too. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say. And I fear you have scared Ashley off. And she is very busy she tells me. Should have never mentioned this to you.Likely now there will be no story from Ashley.
      Uncle Gnarley may bring me to my senses with his Monday morning reflections and insights.

    • All my fault she is too busy to do any research….like a journalist. Hmmmm.

      She paid her way to Torbay did she?? Amazing. I guess her per diems did not cover that too.

      Your ethical ambivalence is telling.

  2. I demanded at the JRP hearings that Nalcor pay to develop a plan for HVGB emergency evacuation and pay for the necessary infrastructure. Their response was a flat NO. Not their business continues to be their mantra.

    The weak to non existent complaint from Mayor Abass was criminal to my mind. It is easier to neutralize weak politicians than do what any reputable company would do to protect human health.

    Nalcor is only interested in unchecked power and has contempt for humans and the treasury.

    How long will they be allowed to operate in the shadows?

  3. Uncle Gnarley suggests Nalcor are relying on legal advice. Most assuredly the same senior team that Marshall has chose to leave intact hence placing himself in the same "basket of incompetents" . Nalcor is no more capable of hiring lawyers than they are capable of hiring qualified staff, engineers, contractors, estimating costs, preventing conflicts of interest or developing schedules and quality/inspection plans. Perhaps the question will be does the Rock have a jail big enough to hold them all?

  4. Well Bruno, as to the main media, which you say is a fundamental part of the problem with Muskrat:
    I just found, posted on Vision 2041, a link to VOCM, a 12 minute conversation between Jim Gordon ( flip flopper Gordon) and Pete Suocey, on whether the North Spur is safe.
    Souceys most telling comment was the two words OH MY, and expressed with a big sigh. Now this discussion took place on Dec 9, I assume in the afternoon, so after my initial posting, which you attacked.
    So, the question is the North Spur safe. To be or not to be.
    On the one hand you have Nalcor`s expert, world class engineers and consultants. On the other hand you have Cabot Martin, the Wolfman, Maurice Adams, the Vision 2041 blogger, and, in the past, me, who expressed concern, and of course that Sweedish engineer, put forward by Cabot as a quick clay expert.
    Here is the problem: The quick clay expert is about 80 years old. The flipflopper about 75 years. Both of these retired and may suffer from some dementia given their age. Thought personally I never sensed that affliction from their efforts. How can I judge on a topic so complex. Even Trump said Hillory had lost it.
    Now Maurice Adams, according to Gordon, discovered the inconsistency in the liquidity index and shear strength data used by Nalcor. How could this be possible. Maurice, was early on labelled with the lunatic fringe group by that wise and notable figure John Smith, a consistent promoter in the Tely commentators of all that is Nalcor and Muskrat. Maurice…..not an engineer, but a little engineering study, a year or so at MUN in the 1960s, as best I can gather. And also a very poor student throughout his school years, just in the middle somewhere. Now, I do not say that an an absolute truth, and stand to be corrected. He appears to have artistic talent, from his many colourful graphs. But common sense says it is a million to one odds that Maurice has the intellect to both understand and detect an abnormality in data that only a few specialtists can even understand.
    As for me, with some engineering experience, including some dam construction, I felt it likely necessary to undertake a major earthwork, of very low slope, maybe even filling in that big sinkhole downstream of the North Spur, and sweeping right around more than half a mile in length, to stabilise that sucker: the Spur. That alone I figures could be from 0.5 to 0.75 billion as a wild guess.
    But anything I say needs to taken with a large grain of salt, especially since my stroke on Thursday, and this being my birthday. Now at 69, I am young compared to the the two engineers with real dam expertise. But, despite my young age I may be more in the lunatic camp, as who knows what a stroke can do.
    Now Gordon is finding new evidence sort of hidden deep at number 400 in a vast photo archive of 600. And he gives Gil Bennett the benefit of doubt that he did not know of the quick clay in the Spur that was found there a year ago. Pete seems less inclined to grant that to Gilbert.
    An amazing situation. Could be the lunatics are sane, and the world class folks, well ….not so much world class. Even the million to one find by Maurice, I would not be inclined to bet against him on this. Some say he was a first class student……who knows where the truth lies. It will surely come out in the wash, or the slip, or failure, or flood, if not first sorted out by the proposed Expert Panel…….we`ll see. My opinion, like yours is of little value it seems.
    But Pete Soucey, as usual is on top of this. Told you, some ethics hidden in that media crowd. Can`t tar all with the one brush, Bruno.

  5. Just an oversight I'm sure but did you forget the 250 homes in the identified flood zone affecting happy valley Goose bay? Or the fact that the town water and sewer distribution centre's are also in the flood zone? Well there's the Happy Valley gone as well as mud lake. Oh ya the flood zone cozies up to the hospital too. Perhaps it's gone too. We live here and were not hoping to be on the news as the latest fiasco in Newfoundland and Labrador.