Thursday, 27 August 2015

DAM BREAK STUDY NEEDS REVISION: HYDRO EXPERT

Guest Post written by Cabot Martin:

For over a year now, I have been privileged to have the advice of Jim Gordon on the North Spur issue at Muskrat Falls via long phone calls and countless emails – when I have cited him, I’ve usually referred  to him simply as a “very experienced retired hydro engineer” –

Mr. Gordon is, in fact, one of Canada’s most pre-eminent Hydro Engineers.

A graduate in civil engineering from Aberdeen University (First Class Honours), he retains his no nonsense Scottish roots.

His bio reads well.

Only Canadian chosen by the prestigious UK based  International Water Power & Dam Construction Magazine’s as one of the world’s top 60 hydro engineers from 1949 to 2009.

Winner of the ultra-prestigious Rickey Medal by the American Society of Civil Engineers; recipient of a Distinguished Service Award by the Canadian Electrical Association.

Worked on the development of the Gull Island site on the Lower Churchill in the 1970’s.

Monday, 24 August 2015

ED MARTIN PLAYS THE 100 YEAR CARD WITH REPORTERS

(CAUTION: WORDS LIKE BULLSHIT, BLATHER, AND BOMBAST USED)

The master of spin, Nalcor CEO Ed Martin, should be weary of his own storytelling. But, when even reporters offer no interruption, I guess he just can’t help himself.

It’s the kind of stuff that makes your teeth grind because, intuitively, you know that Muskrat Falls, at $10-12 billion, will be reported as just an innocuous detail; reporters will never note their failure to challenge the blather (or the decisions) of officials like him.

Recently (July 14th) Ed Martin toured the Muskrat Falls site with some of the provincial Premiers.  The CEO told a media "scrum” he can’t guarantee the project will generate first power by 2017 as scheduled, or if it will meet budget targets.

The statement contained uncharacteristic bluntness for one who never wastes an opportunity to ‘gild the lily’. But, alas, the slip was deliberate; the sad state of the project is beyond plausible deniability, even for Ed Martin. 

The CEO had come to Labrador to be praised, not pilloried; reporters had plenty of evidence to upbraid Nalcor's man but chose to leave his self-praise unedited. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

CONFUSED MINISTER AND A CANADIAN SOLUTION FOR NORTH SPUR

Cabot Martin and his geotechnical engineering advisors are at odds with the Minister of Environment and Conservation, Dan Crummell, on some pretty important issues. I have briefly summarized two of them here, but readers are offered full access to the documents via the links provided below.

The two issues mentioned are:

a)      The Minister claims Nalcor Energy has conducted a proper risk assessment of geotechnical conditions at the North Spur. In his July 30th 2015 reply to Cabot Martin’s Letter of July 7th 2015, Dan Crummell says Nalcor has conformed to the Canadian Dam Association (CDA) Dam Safety Guidelines. The advice Martin received suggests that those Guidelines are applicable to “man-made” structures. In other words, they are appropriate for the two concrete structures which will constitute the southern portion of the dam only; not for the North Spur.

b)    The dam break study which Nalcor commissioned Hatch Consultants to perform, and on which the Minister Crummell relied, is based upon arbitrary assumptions which Nalcor insisted the Study should contain.

Let’s look at those two issues more closely and consider a Paper by a Canadian engineering icon which offers a process to resolve them.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

OF WIMPS, GUTTERSNIPES, AND POLTROONS

When the Liberals should be pit bulls, they are wimps.

After Tory members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) refused to show up for a meeting, last week, to discuss the Humber Valley Paving (HVP) affair, Liberal MHA Jim Bennett told the Telegram “the whole thing seems fishy to him…”

Some condemnation!  

And Bennett wasn’t even in the legislature where the Speaker might have ruled any provocation out of order.

A good Opposition MHA would have whipped out his thesaurus of insults, insinuations, epithets and allegations. The public would know, in the colourful language of the best parliamentarians, that the guttersnipes heading the government are weak of character as well as at the knees.

Monday, 10 August 2015

SERIOUS FLAWS REVEALED IN CRUMMELL'S LETTER ON NORTH SPUR

Guest Post Written by Cabot Martin:

LETTER FROM MINISTER CRUMMELL REVEALS SERIOUS FLAWS IN NORTH SPUR DAM BREAK STUDY

The North Spur stability issue is the single greatest Risk to the Muskrat Falls Project.
Nalcor’s handling of this Risk has been neither sufficient nor timely.

Based on informed expert opinion, it is apparent that (quite apart from downstream safety issues), a North Spur collapse could lead to the loss of the Province’s entire multi-billion investment in the Dams and Generating Facilities presently being constructed at Muskrat Falls and the full abandonment of the Muskrat Falls site.

On July 2, 2015, I wrote the Minister responsible for Dam Safety, Hon. Dan Crummell on this issue; early last week I received an answer from the Minister dated July 30th , 2015.

In the meantime, Nalcor posted a North Spur Dam Break analysis by Hatch Consultants dated June 26,2015 on its website. 

On August 7th, I replied to the Minister’s letter as set out below.

It points out that he is using Dam Safety Guidelines that are simply not applicable  to cases like the North Spur.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

RIGHTSIZING EXPENDITURES (CONTINUED): A BUDGET COLLOQUY

Guest Post Written by JM

Rightsizing Expenditures – Where the Real Work Is Needed (Installment II of Part V)

In the first part of “Rightsizing Expenditures”, I presented the first five ideas to reduce the annual provincial budget by 10%.  This is a continuation of that post; the ideas discussed taken together, constitute an attempt to identify measures to achieve this recommended target.  As a spoiler alert I should inform you, despite all the austerity measures proposed, I was unable to achieve the 10% target.  Nevertheless, here are my additional views on the subject:

Monday, 3 August 2015

RIGHTSIZING EXPENDITURES – THE BUDGET COLLOQUY (PART V )

Guest Post Written by JM

Rightsizing Expenditures – Where the Real Work Is Needed

John Maynard Keynes is perhaps one of history’s most influential economists.  His theories regarding the requirement for state intervention to moderate the natural “boom-bust” cycle of an economy has been especially en vogue since the financial crisis of 2008.  The basic premise of the theory is that government should borrow in periods of slow economic growth (or during a period of retraction), invest in infrastructure, and then manage the economy until it is stronger.

In Newfoundland and Labrador since 2006 the government has perhaps done the opposite of what would be advocated by Keynes.  Despite a strong economy fuelled by mining and offshore developments, the Provincial government commenced in 2006 a series of programs to further stimulate the economy.  They were represented by a general increase in spending of some 35% in real dollars, tax cuts, and a series of large infrastructure developments.  The latter included the massive Muskrat Falls public works project. 

The result was that in 2012 the political leadership proudly proclaimed our economy to be “white hot”

The white hot economy was fuelled by government stimulus, which, in turn, inflated salaries, drove up project costs, and allowed housing prices to increase at a pace far outside of inflation.  It was simply not sustainable and I am deeply afraid it will have a long term negative impact on the economy.