Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Since Nalcor’s last Annual General Meeting, the $7.7 billion Muskrat Falls Project was sanctioned and the construction site is busy with contractors.  There are no surprises to report, just yet, right?

Actually, that’s not correct.
What about the North Spur? What’s that, you may ask? That’s the natural feature which, together with two new dams to be built by Nalcor, will constitute the “impoundment system” of Muskrat Falls.  Cabot Martin, the former Senior Policy Advisor to several Premiers, has referred to it as the “weak link in the Muskrat Falls Project”.  Why? Because, without the North Spur, there can be no Muskrat Falls.

What is the problem?  You can read Cabot Martin’s full Report on "The North Spur Instability Problem" yourself.  (I strongly suggest that you take the time to do so.  It is quite detailed and offers highly compelling arguments for stopping this Project on geotechnical grounds, alone.)  In a nutshell, the “ground conditions at the North Spur are very unstable as they include significant amounts of glacio-marine clay (Quick Clay) that is highly prone to liquefaction and failure.”

Yes, that is a direct quote: “liquefaction and failure”.  This Scribe wrote an Article on Mr. Martin’s Paper, in March of this year, entitled, "Would You Build Your House On A River Of Mud?"  Since then, he has updated the extensive tome with additional historical and geotechnical evidence of the North Spur issue.

Although the Muskrat Falls Project was sanctioned in December, 2012, Nalcor, as of March 1, 2013, according to Martin, “Nalcor had not conducted the geotechnical field work and collected the data necessary to fully assess the North Spur instability problem and design a suitable, cost effective solution.”

Nalcor’s Engineers, SNC Lavalin, have now decided they want to build something called a “Cut-Off Wall” to deal with the instability problem.  This is a “BIG NEW ITEM” for a Project, whose potential for cost overruns, many warn, may do irreparable harm to this Province’s finances.  Remember, in December, Nalcor informed us that engineering on the Project was well advanced and that all the big cost items and major materials were defined and given to the Government with such certainty that their ‘contingency’ allowance, for the Project, was reduced from the prior estimate.    

The master propagandist for Muskrat Falls, CEO Ed Martin, will be facing the public, Wednesday, June 5th, at Nalcor’s AGM.  Nalcor downplayed the North Spur problem when Cabot Martin brought it to light. Now, six months after Sanction, and with SNC Lavalin forced to deal with the problem, it is time to ask the Nalcor CEO if he will come clean on the ‘instability’ issue?  In so doing, will he also:

1.      Inform us what the “Cut-Off Wall” actually is.

2.      Provide us a cost-estimate of the “Cut-Off Wall”.

3.      Advise if the cost figure for this “remediation” represents the entire cost of fixing the North Spur Instability Problem.

4.      Inform us if the cost of the “Cut-Off Wall” was included in the Project Estimate, at the time of Project sanction.

5.      Advise if the Federal Government’s “Independent Engineer” has signed-off on the North Spur Remediation Program, and

6.      Make public a ‘picture’ of the “Cut-Off Wall”; show us what it actually looks like.

One simple question, in six easy parts.  Now, that can’t be too difficult, for the master propagandist.  Can it?