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Wednesday 3 February 2016


Canadian Hydro Engineer, James L. Gordon has refused a one-on-one briefing proposed by Nalcor’s Engineering Manager on the Muskrat Falls project. The invitation to Gordon came from Muskrat Falls Manager of engineering, Greg Snyder.

Nalcor proposed to hold the meeting at SNC Offices in Montreal.

Gordon has been an outspoken critic who insists the remediation plans for the North Spur require assessment by a competent Review Board

In turning down his offer, Gordon told Snyder "there are many others that need assurance from an independent Review Board that the North Spur dam design is correct."

Gordon has worked on 113 hydro projects throughout the world and is the recipient of several awards for “excellence in design”. He fears that Nalcor’s remediation plans have not been designed by experts who have extensive experience in marine clays.
The hydro engineering icon has posted on this Blog and written the Telegram in an effort to draw public attention to the stability of the North Spur and to the value of having a “Blue Ribbon” panel review Nalcor’s design.

The Spur is a natural feature that extends into the Churchill River, from the north. The Spur constitutes roughly 50% of the Muskrat Falls dam. Two proposed Nalcor concrete dams will complete the structure.

The North Spur contains a type of clay called “Quick Clay” which is in a class called “sensitive” clays. Quick Clay has the ability to liquefy under certain conditions, and to cause landslides. A landslide induced collapse of the dam would constitute a catastrophe for the Muskrat Falls project and pose life safety risks for residents living downstream of the project.

In an email to Jim Gordon, the lead Nalcor engineer, Greg Snyder, said: “we value your opinion on the project, and would like to have the opportunity to give you an in depth presentation….In particular”, Snyder stated, “we can address the concerns raised by (Dr. Stig) Bernander on the issues around landslides.”

Dr. Bernander, is a Swedish geoscientist and internationally recognized expert on Quick Clay. His research led to new methodologies for assessing Quick Clay risk.. He conducted field work at the North Spur in 2014 and lectured at the LSPU Hall and at the Engineering School, Memorial University. Nalcor V-P, Gilbert Bennett attended the MUN Lecture but did not invite Bernander to review Nalcor’s design.

Gordon informed the Nalcor engineer by return email:

Gordon goes on to suggest that the Review should be conducted by Dr. Bernander and another retired professor of geotechnical engineering, such as Dr. N. R. Morgenstern from the University of Alberta, who recently chaired the failure panel studying the cause of the central British Columbia Mine disaster, known as Mount Polley Dam. The Dam expert also proposed that a third senior geotechnical engineer, selected by mutual agreement between the other two Review Board members, should complete the Panel.

Gordon told Uncle Gnarley Blog that the design of the North Spur dam is without precedent, and that the consequences of failure are catastrophic. He reiterated, as he had previously, that only an independent panel of experts – a Review Board - is capable of assuring Nalcor’s design for the North Spur is acceptable.
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