Muskrat Falls didn’t cause Mud Lake flood: report
The provincial government has released its independent assessment of the Mud Lake flooding, which concluded the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam was not to blame.
Last spring, the community of Mud Lake, near the mouth of Lake Melville, suffered severe flooding after an ice-jam just downstream forced spring runoff water into the community. Locals said while the community has flooded before, they’d never experienced anything like that.
Right from the beginning, Nalcor Energy said the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam wasn’t to blame, but persistent questions caused the government to commission a study by Dr. Karlerich Lindenschmidt to figure out what happened.
“The high freshet discharge that occurred during May 2017 was caused by natural events, particular the rain-on-snow even in the middle basin of the Churchill River and the high rainfall event just prior to and during the May 2017 flood,” the final report concluded.
“The Muskrat Falls spillway was operated in such a manner as to release the same amount of water through the spillway that was flowing into the reservoir; hence, the ice-jam flood event of 17 May 2017 along the lower reach of the Churchill River cannot be attributed to the operations of the spillway.”
In a news release, Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Eddie Joyce said the government is studying the report.
“We have begun reviewing the report and we appreciate the effort the team made in providing this report in a timely manner,” Joyce stated. “The flooding event at Mud Lake deeply affected the residents of the area and our government is committed to helping them and protecting against the potential for future events.”
The report likely won’t satisfy everyone, and it still raises concerns for Robert Way, who has a PHD in physical geography and is from Happy Valleygoose Bay.
Way said Nalcor isn’t collecting as much data as is needed to fully understand the flows of the river and assess the effects of Muskrat Falls.
“They were not collecting enough data in the area to be able to, I guess, prove that they didn’t have an influence,” he said.
“I can see a scenario whereby the flows either from Muskrat Falls or Churchill Falls may have contributed to the ice conditions and favoured an ice jam forming.”
Way also said that if Nalcor had been monitoring river conditions better, the company could have mitigated the flood using the Muskrat Falls spillway.