Friday, 3 May 2019


Editor's Note: The Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition distributed to the media, yesterday, correspondence between Dr. Lennart Elfgren and Dr. Stig Bernander with the Honorable Siobhan Coady, Minister of Natural Resources, together with a letter from Jim Gordon to the Minister. The same correspondence was sent to the leaders of the four political parties together with the request that, if elected, they will commit, prior to reservoir impoundment, to installing an independent geotechnical panel to review the safety of the North Spur. 

Who are the people referred to? Minister Coady many will know. Most readers will also be familiar with Dr. Stig Bernander who, accompanied by Cabot Martin and the Grand River Keepers, performed field work at the North Spur and addressed audiences at the LSPU Hall and Memorial University, in 2014. Dr. Lennart Elfgren is structural engineer and an academic associate of Dr. Bernander's - both of Lulea College of Technology, Lulea, Sweden. He, too, has studied the instability issue at the North Spur. Jim Gordon is a renowned Canadian hydro engineer who has written a number of posts for this Blog on the Muskrat Falls project, including on the North Spur issue. 

The Grand River Keepers and Coalition Members David Vardy and Ron Penney have maintained contact and exchanged information with Drs. Bernander and Elfgren, and assisted their communications with the NL Government. 

This link, most importantly, provides access to the most recent correspondence between those professional geoscientists and the Minister.  The reader will see that their worst fears regarding the stability of the North Spur have not been allayed. Accordingly, the Coalition is now appealing to the leaders of the four political parties. The Coalition's Public Statement follows: 

Dr. Elfgren and Dr. Bernander have long questioned the safety of the North Spur and have recommended the appointment of an independent panel of geotechnical experts to review their concerns.

Nalcor did constitute a peer review of their concerns but didn’t consult with them during their review. Drs. Elfgren and Bernander have critiqued the peer review and continue to have serious concerns about the stability of the North Spur, as expressed in their most recent letter to the Minister.

Dr. Stig Bernander
They note that the Geotechnical Peer Review Panel appointed by Nalcor used what is termed the “Limited Equilibrium Method”.

“This mathematical approach presumes full plasticity in the critical soil layer. However, this approach is not good enough any longer. Modern research in e.g. Sweden, Norway, Canada, Italy and Switzerland has shown that these early twentieth century rules do not apply at all to extensive progressive landscape failure in slopes with sensitive clay layers ...”.

The Minister’s response erroneously states that Jim Gordon supports the design of the stabilization of the North Spur. His response to her is also included in the attached correspondence.

He recommends “the government of NL should appoint an eminent panel of geophysical experts, completely independent of Nalcor to assess the scientific evidence and undertake all necessary additional research, and undertake a comprehensive review of the safety and stability of the North Spur.”
Dr. Lennart Elfgrin

Given the potential catastrophic impacts on the downstream communities of Mud Lake and Happy Valley- Goose should the North Spur fail, and the loss of the generating plant, we have asked the leaders of the four political parties to commit to the appointment of this independent panel be appointed prior to the filling of the reservoir this Fall.

Surely the one thing we have learned from the Muskrat Falls Inquiry is that we cannot rely on the assurances of Nalcor or experts appointed by them.

Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition

Ron Penney

David Vardy

Des Sullivan