Guest Post By James L. Gordon, P. Eng. (Ret’d) 
May 1st, I read with mounting astonishment the aDB Engineering
report dated April 20, 2017, on their investigations into the causes of the
collapse, which occurred on 29th May, 2016.

level of incompetence described in the report is so widespread that it brings
into question the integrity of all other structures in the development. All
staff, from carpenters to engineers are included within the ranks of the
incompetent. The sub-standard construction was clearly visible to all, but
nothing was done to rectify the errors.

collapse occurred in the lower portion of the draft tube as shown on the
following Figure1, copied from Figure 2 in the aDb report. In this area, the
water passage changes from a vertical expanding cone to an almost horizontal
expanding rectangle as shown in Figure 2. It is the most complex double-curved
shape in the project and very difficult to build.
small turbines, the shape is formed in timber, with an east coast shipwright
engaged as the carpenter foreman. A shipwright carpenter is the only person
capable of cutting and shaping the timber to the required complex shape.

large turbines, the shape is usually formed with collapsible steel forms, since
wood does not possess the required strength. Unfortunately, the contractor
elected to use timber.

forms were supported with untreated southern pine softwood timber lattice
towers as shown in the Figure 2 obtained from the Independent Engineer’s report
dated July 2016.


The tower height is about 5.4m. The vertical lattice tower portions
are formed with built-up 2” x 10” timbers which were exposed to weathering,
with the bottom immersed in stagnant water, fungus was growing at the bottom,
parts of the wood were rotten, assembly was deficient with inadequate shims,
alignment was off with beams only partially supported by the towers, all as
shown in the following photos copied from the aDB report.




the photographic evidence it is obvious to any observer that the timber lattice
towers were deficient and should never have been used to support a heavy load
of concrete.

the time of the collapse, there were 5 workers at the site. All fell into the
concrete mix during the collapse, and one was fully submerged but luckily
managed to extricate himself from the liquid concrete with the aid of another


were 6 towers supporting the forms, and all collapsed. The failure destroyed
all evidence, hence the report was based on observations of the condition of
the lattice towers in the other units. 

The list of unacceptable work is long,
with details as follows –

Flooding up to
about 3 feet above the tower foundation.

Fungus and decayed
wood in towers with mushroom growth.

Exposure of the
untreated wood to rain and snow.

Severe weathering,
with some weathering occurring during storage at site.
Ice built up
between ribs, in June!
Buckling of tower

failure in some towers.

Gaps between
timbers and lack of shims at top.

Wood saw marks
indicating no quality control at the fabrication plant.

alignment of some towers.

Inadequate nailing
of braces.

Splices not
conforming to CSA standards.

No protection of
the untreated lumber on site prior to installation of the towers 
fabrication in summer of 2014, to use in the spring of 2016.

Tower load
calculated at 57,700 lbs, and capacity at 40,500 lbs.

No allowance for
expansion of the timber due to moisture retention, compromising structural

the foregoing, it is obvious that there was no quality control at the
fabrication plant and on site, and no NALCOR staff with sufficient experience
to realize that the towers were totally inadequate. This is astonishing, since
any carpenter looking at the towers would conclude that something was wrong. 

Also, an engineer looking at the towers would immediately observe the errors in
fabrication, installation and deterioration due to weathering. This indicates
that either no engineers inspected the structure, an almost impossible
conclusion, or, more likely, they were totally inexperienced to such an extent
that their competence to practice engineering in Newfoundland should be

Gordon, PEng. (Retired)


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. It is time for the Association of Professional Engineers to become involved. Does anyone know the process involved? A public complaint? Forward them a copy of this report? Legal action? I am amazed that the media is not all over this. We have a situation that represents either incompetence or corruption, both of which have the potential to erode the public's confidence in professional engineering in this province. If I was a member of the professional association I would be very upset right now.

    John D Pippy, B.Eng. (Civil)

  2. Now widespread incompetence in the development.

    Well, it all starts at the top. Widespread mismanagement. Widespread deception. Widespread corruption.

    And now wide spread wallets to pay for this mess.

  3. I met one of the carpenters and he told me that reporting safety issues worked as a strike against you. If you want work, you rapidly learn to keep your mouth shut. He also said that the fellow that was buried up to his neck was "not the same" anymore. I wouldn't be either and would be nervous and paranoid about the working conditions. He also told me other significant things that were not in the report related to advance warning signs of that failure and how they were handled.

  4. Jim, Thank you for your analysis of the engineering of the collapsed tube. You have made plain to the layperson what happened, why it happened and the incompetence displayed in both the design and execution of the forms. It is a miracle no one was killed.

    This gross engineering incompetence mirrors what I saw the JRP. All relevant professional opinion by government employees was constrained under threat of reprisal from a Justice "handler" riding shotgun. Not a contrary word about the project viability or technical concerns was uttered. It was clear decisions had been made and no technical advice was to contradict the narrative.

    The engineers, like every one else were told to do as they were told…or else. Absolute unfettered control in Nalcor's hands leads to the hubris and incompetence repeatedly displayed at MF.

    While discussing the spur problems I asked Gil Bennett at the JRP what was the symbolic importance of the iron engineer's ring he was wearing. He got very uncomfortable and I had to remind him it was to remind him of the hubris that led to the Quebec bridge collapse that killed many workers. That Gil disgraces that ring is already clear. I am sure he was heavy handed with any one who pointed to the shortcomings you outline.

    Your concern for your profession is well stated. Nothing will change however unless Nalcor's unchecked power over professionals and the treasury is reigned in. When will the spotlight finally be put on Bennett to account for decisions leading to the waste, incompetence and engineering failures (including the faulty wire and god knows what else thanks to the secrecy).

    Thanks again for making a complex issue clear.

  5. Did this project start out with real engineers or is this another tiny tots day care center were the kiddies are learning to play with each other…I see all the comments here from ,I guessing, real engineers telling us what should be done….Ten years from now it will be all forgotten like other projects on this island. We will continue to lose on this contract like the other mega power project that's owned by another province…I give up and all I can do is wait for my mega power bill….

  6. About 6 months ago I emailed Ashley at the Telegram, saying I have a carpenter who was at the collapse of the from form at MF, and he agreed to talk to her if she wanted to interview him…………no reply from Ashley. The carpenter told me that he had never worked on such a disorganized project, where there was little if any competent supervision, but lots of people in white hats.
    The report notes that 4 or 5 (what one might assume were competent people, but we see that was not the case) signed off on this structure before the concrete pour. Safely first………sure.
    That someone of the experience and qualification of Jim Gordon questions the competence of any engineer who signed off on this near fatal failure, should be of great concern ………as to the engineering profession, Nalcor, the contractors, and the reliability of anything they do there, and the impact of this project on the province.
    Winston Adams

  7. Nalcor got a little mention at the Fortis AGM this morning, where some 300 shareholders came to hear and see the chest thumping: Some 40 billion in assets, 18 billion market cap, 8000 employees…….and waiting for an opportunity to buy some power assets in Nfld/Lab………that is transmission assets, not generation….saying that CF assets was probably off the table.
    He said Nfld should have just one power company. That was the plan in the 1990s under Clyde Wells, if I recall, who once had a big job with Nfld Power. Maybe they will get another chance…….they have access to the cash, and Ball takes us deeper in debt.
    The CEO Parry gave the big Yahhoo…… to their profits……….the only company in Canada to have continuous increase in dividends for about 45 years….even outdoing the banks.
    So, they are as big as our whole government, but profitable, and awaits opportunity to buy in at the fire sale, it seems.
    Inflated MF assets, paid for by residents over 50 years, may likely be shared up between Emera and Fortis. They are really happy campers.
    No mention of the AGM on CBC, the Telegram. or VOCM, maybe they were not allowed in…..even so, is it not news?
    About 4 people asked questions……I mean shareholders are cheerleaders as long as their assets grow. One questioned the 30 percent or more in raises to key people.
    After it finished up, one guy, an ex-Nfld power pensioner who said he gets just 13,000 a year in pension was not so pleased. A second admitted that Nflders are too quiet and do not speak up enough.
    They spoke to me because during the session, I bucked up, despite being a poor public speaker, asked some questions that the brass did not like to hear. When finished, maybe 10 percent, 20 or 30 applauded.
    That was very good, considering I was not a cheerleader there.
    It is like parallel universes……..Nalcor and Fortis.
    Fortis having risen from the Mickey Mouse monopoly of Nfld Power, and the power bills paid by generations of Nflders……….have they ignored their roots and dedicated workers working in the harshest conditions for decades, and now shrewd operators expand and get to the New York Stock Exchange listing? I think so, they care little.
    I pointed out some of their shortcomings….., and of the ipact of power rates to double,………but, by their response, doubt if they care.
    Winston Adams

  8. Some thought he had lost it, when Parry Perry gave the big Yahhoo at the Fortis AGM. It reminded me of the USA politician that was once a canadiate for president, and did a similar thing, and they thought he was nutty.
    Naturally Perry, as CEO was tooting his own horn, as to their financial success. And I suppose, some Nfld Power retired workers who owned a hundred or so shares, would see 10 or 20 dollars more in dividends this year. They were not so excited, getting very modest pensions.
    I picked up some Fortis literature, and reviewed some of it.
    I asked my wife……What do you think Mr Perry makes in salary per year/ She replied …Maybe 5 or 600 thousand.
    1.1 million I replied……but a few perks on top of that.
    That's a lot she replied.
    How much including the perks I asked. She replied ..Maybe 1.5 million.
    A bit more I stated……….how about total compensation for 2106 of 8 million. It can be found on page 76 of the May 4, 2017 information by Fortis.
    Why has no media reported this……I mean their company made some 760 million in profit last last year……….he is good a t his job it seems………
    Beware the 4th of May said Ryan Snoddon…..a reference to Darth Vader and our unusual weather pattern. Another Greenland blocking High, so more FDF for next week………some can afford to fly south and avoid that.
    Now I know why Perry gave the big Yhahoo. Who wouldn'nt.
    Perry…..maybe the highest income earner in Nfld, or among the top, should not be worried about paying his Muskrat levy tax……
    But I had no beef with his earnings………but other issues……..being second worse in the country for Energy efficiency and Conservation for power customers. SECOND WORSE!
    Graham Coombs from upper Island Cove, known as backhoe Graham, some years ago went to the bank of nova Scotia to seek a loan to buy newer backhoe.
    Now, what kind of a loan are you looking for , Mr Coombs, asked the bank manager.
    I'd like to get one like Alex Hickman had, replied Graham, dryly.
    Readers may recall, Hickman borrowed some 200,000 dollars from the bank of Nova Scotia, and refused to pay it back……..he being a judge and all. Eventually the bank forgave the load in full. Witty , those guys from Upper Island Cove. But he never got the deal that Hickman got, nor did he expect it.
    Winston Adams

  9. Barry Perry is a whipper snapper at age 51. Last year at about 6 million of compensation he was number 57 of the top earners in Canada.
    At 8 million in 2016, that should put him at about number 42, for anyone who is counting, and Barry probably is…..
    To get to number 10 position , he would need about 13 million compensation. At the present rate, he may soon achieve that. Top CEOs in Canada on average make almost 200 times an average Canadian worker, or so I read………but I guess they pay a lot of tax too, unless your very smart , like Trump.
    A lad from Bonavista Bay………with a MUN degree Bach of Commerce.
    Actually wondered if he was from Nfld……….as he mispronounced Beaumont Hamel at the AGM meeting…….you know , we say Hamal . he said Ham-ellll, guess we was speaking to the mainland audience and wanted to be sounding ……well, like Prince Charles.
    But seems like a friendly fellow, has a friendly looking face…….unlike Bernie Coffey…..rather frighting the picture they had in the Telegram……….like some one who died last week.
    Uncle Gnarley , on the other hand, has a respectable photo posted.
    I know ,I post too much……and does anyone even find my comment interesting. Maybe not. Actually better if mpore posted on the collapse form incompetence……that is a really really bad.

  10. Since no one else has anything to say, I will press my luck with the moderator:
    Now Ryan Snodden warned us about the 4th of May, a take on Darth Vader……The Force of May……with Darth Vader standing on Signal Hill somewhere looking east over the Atlantic, in his black outfit and heavy breathing sounds…….very scary…….is it not……I mean it used to be the Bermuda Triangle that was strange, but Nfld seems to be the centre of things….all out of kilter.
    There is this blocking Greenland high pressure promising more RDF (rain drizzle and fog) and we just finished a record of 60 straight hours of freezing rain. And look at the flooding in Ontario and Quebec, and moving toward new Brunswick….and what causes this Greenland blocking High you might ask……….well…..the jet stream!
    And you can be sure if we get a few fine days like now, that east or west of us, it is terrible, whether Ontario, or England. The bloody jet stream is all shagged up! It is supposed to go from west to east, but now starting to go loopy, north and south………anyone notice that…….
    Now no one knew the jet stream existed until WW2 when pilots notices strong tail winds a high elevations. And I suppose they have existed since the days of Noah, when the climate was last shagged up. now they have looked back and say that the jet stream has increased it frequency of delays 70 percent since the Industrial Revolution. That came after the American Revolution….and we can blame that on that acclaimed British engineer who invented the steam engine,,,and so the burning of coal took off…..the Father of Climate Change.
    Now these highs and lows normally move through at a good pace, so not much flooding, not much sleet, (that is …glitter)…….but when they stop, man … out. In Noah`s day the jet stream stopped for 40 days…….all in the book of Genisis. And the poor animals had it hard, and all humans who sinned.
    Now look at the recent signs: cod and capelin disappeared. Crab and shrimp arrived. Polar bears and walrus moving from the Arctic to Nfld waters. In Feburary, warm tropical air came up just east of the Avalon, travelled right over Greenland, on to the North Pole where it actually got mild, 30 degrees warmer than normal where Santa resides.
    Anyone keeping track of this…….. and a week ago, the American pilots up here checking for icebergs were startled…..their prior flight had sightings of just 45 bergs, and then a week later , 600 bergs right out of nowhere…….ships having to sail 400 miles further south.
    Now Melrose Lynch once told me that an old woman, long ago, at Bishop`s Cove predicted that icebergs and oil would be the ruination of Nfld. No one kmew what she was talking about,…they said she was a witch. But he wondered if there was some truth to it. Now she would have lived a 100 years ago……before Hibernia…….so how could she have known about climate change and fossil fuel……..hmmmmmmm.
    Darth Vader, on the 4th of May. Barry Perry`s big yahhoo on the 4th of May………… I`m not superstitious……but……is there some science to this I wonder…….
    If if that wasn`t enough to worry about, there is Dave Vardy`s prediction a few months ago in this Uncle Gnarley blog…. about that place much like Nfld with serious economic trouble…….anyone notice the 4th of May connection there. It happened as Vardy predicted, filed for bankruptsy. Vardy….a wizard……maybe…
    Oh my……enough to drive one to drink.

    • I have been watching the jetstream get loopy for years. It is a result of the weakening of the polar dome due to climate change. The weakening allows warm air that used to be blocked by the strong arctic dome to move to the pole. The loopy stream also brings cold arctic air far south with the loop. Everything has become "loopy" with the climate.

      By the way Winston Manitoba Hydro, another monstrous hybrid, has taken unmanageable debt to build unneeded capacity. They "increase the rate base" to increase future profit. Guess who gets stuck with the bill?

    • A while back, Dave Vardy compared Nfld to Puerto Rico……they have a debt of 70 billion for 3.4 million people……it would compare to 14 billion Canadian funds for Nfld 0.5 million.
      Well on May 4th Puerto filed for bankruptcy protection. Analysts laud the decision , while creditors say it is outright theft to do that.
      Meanwhile Manitoba hydro`s proposed 40 percent rate hike, given their lower cost at present, will be something like 12 or 13 cent power in 5 years………we are headed for 21 cents that may get trimmed to 17 or 18 cent if possible. So here much worse than Manitoba.
      Meanwhile should I dump my modest holding in Fortis or stay put………is Barry Perry of Fortis like Darth Vader…….as to concern for climate change and C02 emissions……a force for evil or for good…………a part of the problem or part of the solution, Bruno….have you assessed Fortis as to environmental impact…..

    • This may be of interest: Fortis business is more than 90 percent transmission rather than generation, so I figured not much of a CO2 contributor.
      I made an issue of their poor efficiency and conservation program here.
      But they report efforts to reduce CO2 in terms of equivalence to cars taken off the road…….standard practice….5000 cars here, 15,000 there…..
      C02 is a gas, so not very heavy, lighter than a feather, yet it must be reported in tons being put in the atmosphere. I had no idea of what space a ton of CO2 would take up, but it is a cube 26.8 ft x 26.8 x 26.8 ……so more or less the size of a house.
      If one converts this to pick up truck loads, it is about 300 trucks loads per ton of CO2.
      Now if one puts these trucks bumper to bumper, on a road… far would they go you think.
      I sure wish someone would check my numbers …….here is what I get:
      Imagine a single lane highway around the equator, including across the oceans, with these trucks bumper to bumper.
      You would need 477 lanes side by side, around the globe to accomodate all the trucks. Or 54 times the distance to the moon.
      Did I make an error…….possible…….and love for someone to correct it if so.
      How many tons of Green house gases do Fortis put out…….well they show 15,109,020 tons.
      Now that is for the year 2015…….so add 477 more lanes of trucks for 2016 and each year and every year……

      This got to be wrong………or there would be an outcry from the public (or maybe not).
      This is not the image of our Light and Power Boys that we look up to when storms take the system down.
      15 million tons in one year…..tell me it ain`t so…….(was it Shoeless Joe who once said that!)
      Must be a mistake . Must be a mistake. Barry Perry would not do that, surely. If they read about this and correct me, I will make the correction promptly on this blog. Just tell me it ain`t so.

    • I'm slightly off topic, but just to let you know that we really have excess water around here (Ottawa-Gatineau).

      Would that be ok to divert some to MF? Its kind of urgent to be honest…

      Seriously, I never seen the Ottawa river as much flooded in my life time.