lack of quality control on the Muskrat Falls project failed to detect a faulty
transmission cable, containing a “popped” wire, which was
strung — with the defect — on a large section of the Labrador Island

CBC reported
the issue in June 2016. Flabbergasted by what he had read, James L. Gordon, the
Canadian engineer who has written repeatedly on the Uncle Gnarley Blog,
contacted renowned transmission line designer J.P. Schell, P. Eng. (Ret’d) and
asked him to examine the issue. Mr. Schell wrote a piece entitled Design
Engineer Baffled By Extent of Muskrat TL Flaw Reported by CBC for this

transmission cable (170 km X 2 lines = 340 km of D.C. conductor wire) was spun
at the factory, shipped, stored and erected before anyone at Nalcor
noticed — testimony to a management ill-equipped for the roles they fill.

Wire – now scrap – arriving at Newco Metal Yard (Happy Valley-Goose Bay)

Engineer Schell wrote: “This massive failure of Quality Assurance can only enlarge an already serious problem of cost overruns on the Muskrat Falls project. Mistakes of such magnitude, and the reasons why they occurred, deserve proper airing. Those responsible must be held to account.”

In typical Nalcor fashion, Nalcor remained silent as to how its management processes and/or its personnel had been so badly negligent.

In a similar vein, in May 2015 the Uncle Gnarley Blog published the first
pictures (see: The Photos Nalcor Don’t Want You To Seeof the Muskrat Falls Integrated Cover System known as the “Dome”. 

The “Dome” in the scrap yard

The estimated $120
million structure was supposed to advance construction during the Labrador winter. The
“Dome” wasn’t even finished when it was dismantled and sent off to the scrap yard.   

Nalcor’s management incompetence is on display again  at the same Goose Bay yard of the metal recycling company, Newco Metals.  

Undoubtedly, as has been discussed many times on this Blog, the current project estimate of $12.7 billion can be attributed, in part, to deceit and low-balling  and possibly fraud, too. 

But a significant part of that cost is also due to an incompetent project management team that has run the project from the very beginning  which CEO Stan Marshall retains.

The photographs above and below, taken by two keen Muskrat watchers in Goose Bay, show some of the scrapped faulty cable. 

All photos – Newco Metals yard, Happy Valley-Goose Bay

The photos are said to represent only a small percentage of the wire; 340 km of transmission line is one heck of a lot of metal. Replacement of the faulty wire will require more than one dump site. 

Perhaps Stan Marshall or Gilbert Bennett will confirm the source of the dumped cable and voluntarily tells us how many tens of millions this one mistake has cost the people of the province. Was it even higher than the originally budgeted $120 million for the “Dome”  which some engineers say actually cost a lot more? 

Stan should send out Gilbert to account, especially since the screw-up occurred on his watch. 

Of course, t
he public shouldn’t count on that. 

But they should worry that the state of Quality Assurance/Control exhibited by the faulty cable is represented on many other components of the Muskrat Falls project.

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. Thanks for the reminder of the Nalcor incompetence. The spur engineering is also a slow moving incompetent disaster that is unfolding. The tower failure resulting in two deaths needs to be kept in mind as well.

    How do we force Stan and Gil to account for all the bumbling? We should also not forget that Dwight Ball empowers the secrecy and ongoing corruption at Nalcor. If only NL had a functioning media the incompetent bastards would not be able to thumb their noses at the chumps who will be paying for the bumbling for 57 years..

    • This story in today's telegram is a classic of hypocrisy and victim shaming.–patriotic-correctness-in-newfoundland-and-la.html

      Overcoming "patriotic correctness" depends on an informed population. David Cochrane and his peers are still unable to do any research and keep the public informed on issues. The disgrace is that citizens must get informed at blogs like this one and Vision 2041.

      Why is Cochran not reporting on how the Labrador agreement on lowering water levels at MF is not being honoured. Lets not embarrass our PM with the fact of his hypocrisy about respecting agreements with first nations.

      The risk to life and and to the asset from the shady engineering and lies about quick clay are documented here in this blog and the mainstream media ignores the issue.

      A functioning media is essential to inform and empower the populace. A fawning, impotent,lazy media is only capable of victim shaming. It is the medias unwillingness to confront local strongmen and act like the Fourth Estate that is the real problem.

    • Yes, the minister of Twitter, Stevie and later promoted to minister of health, and then wanting to be premier made a U-turn, after looking in the mirror once too often and decided he could not face himself anymore. Yet, in an interview yesterday, he was bold faced and stupid enough to say he would do muskrat all over again, even at current cost and blunders. Some people never learn….from their blunders, boondoggles and possible bankruptcy of the province. If one can never admit they may have made a mistake, and can't learn anything from it, I say good riddance to them, you have done enough damage to the public treasury, go hang your head in shame. Maybe just being a little humble, might earn them just a little forgiveness.

    • This suggests that the more errors/omissions/mistakes/waste made by the EPC contractors, through their own ignorance and incompetence, the more per diems and bonuses they get. Muskrat is not about smart renewable energy. Think of all the carbon emissions to engineer/construct/operate this remote hydro project/transmission line. There were/are much smarter alternatives.

    • I understand that Mr. Vardy may have been retained by the BCUC to advise on the economic merits of continuance/stoppage. One would hope that a Muskrat time track will be avoided. Same old routine; Bad Contract Administration; where is the data? how many contracts? who scrutinizes the time sheets?, etc.

    • Tory view of the quick report; Can you believe at this stage there is no evident alternative to the Site C? Do you accept the view that electric cars are a "Socialist Plot"? Current forecasts are that electric vehicles will be more than 50% total in 25yrs. Where will Avaloners plug in their vehicles if not to locally generated power; Solar/Thermal/Wind?

    • I still can't understand how an "enlightened" democracy can allow the regulatory system to be bypassed on major projects. This seems defacto evidence of corruption out of the gate.

      This feature (along with take or pay contracts) has been the backbone of SNC Lavalin's MO both abroad and in Canada. It has led to corruption convictions abroad and charges in Canada.

      I understand (but abhor) the political impotence in feudal NL where feudal loyalty perverts democratic institutions. I hope the BC government acts quickly and decisively to restore regulatory order.

      Investment in conservation and wind balanced with battery storage can meet future demand in a measured, cost effective manner.

    • I share your concerns regarding "feudal NL", and offer the following, via John Ralston Saul's "The Comeback":

      "Democracy thrives when well-informed people are engaged and make their voices heard. Idle No More started with four young lawyers trying to inform the people in their communities about an issue they were passionate about. Now many people are engaged. Even more information is being shared, and even more voices are being heard. There is no one leader or "list of demands" attributable to Idle No More. While this may seem chaotic, this is what democracy is all about. Democracy is messy. Democracy is loud. Democracy is about hearing a wide range of voices and trying to build a path forward among them. It is not about shutting off debate or trying to rush things through the back door."

      Peace and Progress my friend.

  2. I have also heard of abundant wastage of perfectly good materiel and equipment, let alone valuable scrap. (Certain "businessmen" can't be far behind with that much metal at stake!).

    It was attracting scavengers of the two-legged variety. I wonder… did the Town Council in HVGB restrict access to the dump so that pictures like these would be less likely to see the light of day?

    • Are you kidding Soots? You can bet Nalcor got pennies on the dollar, or less for that aluminum. One of their shady friends probably "took it off their hands" to make it disappear. Is Nalcor suing the manufacturer or is the Nalcor oversight negligence to blame?

      Does Dwight and his merry band of Dweebs care? Who will question Stan about what happened to the wire that must be worth tens of millions of dollars (at $2164.00 US a ton)? Is the Auditor General still alive in NL?

  3. 340km of wire is a huge pile — far more than is in these pictures. Does anyone know where it is? Does it have a steel core with aluminium wrapped around it? If so, you might have to separate the metals to get the best price for the scrap.

    Getting a shipment of garbage wire from India is bad enough – but why did they actually string the stuff? Were the linesmen to scared to speak up?

  4. At least the wire went to the right place to be recycled. I also agree that these piles of wire which usually has a steel cable core that has to be removed by hand doesnt reflect the km of wire as the story quoted. Also if towers are 300 feet or so apart and the reel of wire only reaches half way doesnt that leave an end on the reel that cant be used similar to any normal wiring. The story seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill of wire.

  5. Mother nature (God if you like) vs Trump
    Harvey:180 billion
    Irma + Harvey: maybe 300 Billion
    Maria: demolished Puerto Rico yesterday and the US virgin Islands, must be surpassing 350 billion by now……almost as much as their military budget. The Rocket Man is not near as dangerous…..
    The USA military budget is about 500 billion a year.
    Trump proposed a 50 billion increase for the military in his budget proposal to Congress, while cutting FEMA disaster aid, cutting EPA and weather forecasting… Mother Nature, or the Big Guy upstairs shows who is boss.
    Deny climate change and the burning of fossil fuels at your (our) peril!
    Poor Puerto RIco…….Mr Vardy has pointed out: they are 3.5 million with 70 billion debt………, with 0.5 million, we have 30 billion debt…….15 billion just for MF.
    Puerto Rico , their power grid and generation smashed and 4-6 months to restore.
    Where is our rainy day fund, should we need it, if we get hit big time with an environmental disaster……….
    52 inches of rain in Texas over 5 days, 30 inches in Puerto Rico in 1 day. Here on the Avalon, my sump pump cuts in after 1.5 in of rain, and I am on a hill. Perhaps ours will come as freezing rain for 2 weeks and power lost for 4 months…………
    Now Stephen Hawkings says climate change is a bigger threat to our civilisation that nuclear war………and that we are perhaps already at the tipping point.
    Hawkings, who seems to understand a thing or two about the universe and black holes………I guess he has a handle on risk assessment for this little planet………perhaps better than Nalcor.
    Just wonder…………is this off shore oil drilling prudent…….
    Do we need a carbon tax………
    And of course Mother Nature throws in 2 earthquakes, at the same time as the hurricanes, for good measure…….which has scientists somewhat alarmed…..because neither was related to a subduction from the plate of the Ring of Fire, but in the midst of a separate plate under Mexico.
    One Republican in the USA said Mother Nature was sending a message on climate change……..but most say now is not the time to talk about that………..
    Seems no time is the right time, hey boy.
    This is Book of Revelation stuff…… it not………even Trump says such winds and destruction has never been seen before! if he could he would blame it on fake news by CNN………
    There is rumours he may have a conversion,retire his private jet and travel by train……….but that is just fake news by me.

  6. Given these obvious examples of poor management and planning at a senior level within Nalcor, how then did some of these same individuals qualify for performance bonuses?
    Given my years working in the private sector, such poor performance would have resulted in dire consequences for those responsible. To add to this, the past and present government are oblivious to these events and see no need to step in and demand accountability for such flagrant waste of tax payer money. Once again the people of this province are being made to look like idiots and will forever go on holding our hands out for Ottawa to bail us out. For a population of just over 500k people and the vast resources we have in forestry, mining, the fishery, hydro and oil it is sickening. No one yet has explained where the $25 billion dollars in oil revenue disappeared.

    • What Brain Peckford wouldn't dare mention is that 1) the Upper Churchill paid for itself, 2) at the time of commencement of the Upper Churchill Hydro Electric project oil was $.5 per barrel. Energy, the price of energy and energy shortages as well as climate change weren't even topics like they are now. No one dreamed of the 1972 Arab oil embargo in 1966. 3) the lost of revenues was for the most part offset by a massive increase in equalization payments to NL mostly from Ontario, Alberta and BC. At one point the equalization payments came in at over a $Billion per year and I believe reaching $1.5 Billion in 1973. Can you imagine what Brian Peckford would have done with all those royalties coming in from the Upper Churchill? A greenhouse in everyone's back yard. Brian Peckford should just go away and let someone who knows how to tell the truth comment on the Churchill river and its development.

    • Revenue from the sale of electricity wasn't an issue until 1972 the same year as the Arab oil embargo which drove energy prices through the roof. The only part of the upper Churchill which wasn't a good idea was the 90 year time period without an inflation clause to protect Nl's side. There should have been a schedule to pay for the capital, maintenance and operating costs with an escalating energy price clause. The main problem with the Upper Churchill was the same as Muskrat Falls, the GBS systems for oil extraction, Come by Chance oil refinery and a host of other large projects in NL. They were all built with short term construction jobs in mind to shore up NL politician's power base and this is what has to stop. We must also remember that a large part of the costs of Muskrat Falls is Capital and financing costs. That being said we should seriously start looking at getting out of the Mega Project business altogether since many of these projects and their failure makes us liable for the financing. Somethings are best left to the private sector to decide and sort out.

    • Inflation, therein lies the big takeaway by PQ along with the contract jurisdiction being the courts in Montreal, PQ. It is not 90 years thankfully but 65 years until 2041 unless we do something stupid again before then, like the guaranteed winter reliability contract prior to going all the way in the courts.

    • I would use the words, we got shafted on the upper Churchill, on muskrat we shafted ourselves, which feels worst. Something like fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Guess on upper ch. you don't miss what you never had, just the potential for loss billions, but having to pay it back, like 15$ billion, really hurts. Agree, we did get equalization, when we didn't in lieu of upper, but will we get equalization in paying off muskrat, think that's a double whammy.

    • There is also the misconception that Quebec just shaved revenues off the top. Hydro Quebec invested heavily in the Upper Churchill but due to the lack of an escalation clause for the price of electricity on the New England market, NL lost out some very big chunks of royalties and that is the only and biggest problem with the Upper Churchill.

    • 2/3 is twice 1/3. PQ invested approximately 1/3 heavy while NL invested 2/3 heavy. PQ is the big winner with 90% of the plant's production at bargain basement prices for 65 years ending in 2041 while NL gets 10%. The failure of Brinco to secure the escalation clause they sought from HQ during negotiation is the big source of unfairness in the deal to this day and requires remedy. Perhaps the supreme court of Canada can find that fairness????

    • The whole discussion concerning the Upper Churchill is moot.
      Rest assured that we will lose what we assumed was coming to us in 2041–all because of MF. Quebec Hydro will gain full control of the UC in exchange for their takeover of the MF and relinquishing us of the financial burden which we simply cannot handle. NL Hydro will come under the umbrella of Emera from where we will get our power bills.
      This will be the Williams' legacy. Dunderdale is drawn into the legacy as well because of Danny's "stickhandling".
      All this to satisify his enormous ego and his personal financial gain to ensure Galway has enough power without having to go thru Quebec.
      Ironic hey??

    • The Bombardier bailout by Canada and Quebec highlights the Quebec/Upper Churchill Canadian scandal. In the Bombardier case the USA is the big dog taking advantage of the little dog. In the Upper Churchill case it is Canada and Quebec that has taken advantage of the little dog, Newfoundland. Poetic justice I say, and even though I am a Canadian, I say poetic justice to Quebec and Canada. Suck it up Trudeau and Couilard but fight on for justice even though neither of you know what it means!!

  7. I am an ex national grid UK site manager, and projects manager for Scotia Power, and I have worked on large industrial projects world wide so I have plenty of experience on cables.
    I know that all cables need to be examined on the truck when delivered to look for damaged reels, broken wood slats, protruding nails and damaged cables, because once it is off the truck then you have a devil of a job getting back on and sent back.

    It is not just damage on route or even during manufacture that you can have damaged cables but also if they are not stored correctly especially in cold damp climates then you get ingress of moisture which also cause damage.
    Even then any test/inspection document was only valid at the time it was tested in the factory, before stringing that cable it should have been tested, even a basic test should have shown up any damage, and any basic electrical tech/engineer on site is capable of carrying out the test.
    By not carrying out basic testing before stringing the cable means there is negligence on someones part, and negligence on Nalcor for signing off on the lift.

    Considering the pay on this project was well above global rates I would have expected the best management money could buy but there seems to be no basic management procedures in place, again it is not just the EPC management but Nalcor for not enforcing standards, and the final responsibility rest with the client which is the government to ensure that those sanctioned to carry out the project not only had sufficient and extensive procedure, but that those procedure were being followed. The client CAN NOT pass on the the client responsibility to others.

    There seems to be no basic project management checks and balances or over sight on this project and the EPC and their contractors have made the most of it. The EPC is not the clients friend, I have been EPC and client rep and our roles boil down to the EPC getting as many changes or additions as possible and the clients to give away as few as possible.
    The more the project gets screwed up the more the EPC makes clearing up the mess as it is the clients fault, even if it is the EPC mistake.
    I learned the black art long ago on how to progress the job but without giving instructions, too complex to write down here, but a good client on gives objections or does not object, it is the contractor as the EXPERT to tell you how they will achieve the project goals, once you start telling them or to use specific equipment or processes then if anything goes wrong the EPC is in the clear because they were acting on instructions of the client. I loved my job if nothing else it kept your mind sharp.

    We do need an investigation, and we certainly need an audit done now on the EPC and contractors project management control procedure, otherwise the project is just going to hemorrhage money before it finishes.

  8. I have also read the initial contract and EY risk assessment, I do not know one professional engineer who would have signed off on the project, and from the contractors perspective it was pure heaven of never ending and untold riches.