(Updated July 10) A project that would link the island of Newfoundland to the North American power grid took another step towards completion last week.
© Brodie Thomas photo
Gerry Brennan, project manager for the Maritime Link, holds up a sample cross section of the undersea cable that may bring Muskrat Falls power to mainland North America. The conductor is the centre of the cable, while the outer layers provide protection and strength for the cable.
Editor's Note: The bolded paragraph below has been edited to clarify how power from the Muskrat Falls project will be divided.
Representatives from Emera Newfoundland and Labrador held open houses in Port aux Basques, Cape Ray and Stephenville as part of the environmental assessment requirements for the project.
Jeff Myrick, Senior Communications Advisor with Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, said the purpose of the open house was to share information with residents on the proposed Maritime Link.
If the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric project goes ahead, Emera will pay $1.2 billion to build the Maritime Link, which will run from Granite Canal in Central Newfoundland to Cape Ray, and then under the Cabot Strait and on to Woodbine, N.S. via landfall at Point Aconi.
Emera will also make a contribution to the cost of the Labrador link. In return the company will maintain control of the Maritime Link for 35 years and profit from the sale of 20 per cent of the power from Muskrat Falls during that time. Nalcor will receive 40 per cent of the power to replace the Holyrood Generating Station, and the remaining 40 per cent can be used within the province or sold by Nalcor through the Maritime Link to southern markets.
After 35 years, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador will be able to buy back the Maritime Link for $1.
The exact route of the transmission lines has not been finalized but Emera does have a two-kilometre wide corridor study area running from Granite Canal to Cape Ray.
The transmission line will not need a two-kilometre buffer. Mr. Myrick said it will be closer to 50 metres, although the exact width has not yet been finalized.
The two kilometre study area mainly runs along the eastern side of the Trans-Canada Highway though the Codroy Valley.
The transmission line will end at a converter station to be built near Cape Ray, about a kilometer or two from the coastline. Then the power will go into underground cables which will lead to the ocean. Horizontal directional drilling will be used to get the cables form the conversion station to the sea floor.
The two underwater cables crossing the Cabot Strait will be buried in a trench in shallower water, and protected by a rock berm in places where trenching is not an option.
Mr. Myrick said there are only eight companies in the world that are capable of laying the undersea cable, and most if not all are bidding on the project. The underwater cables will be 8-10 inches in diameter.
Mr. Myrick said about 20 environmental studies have been done in preparation for the environmental assessment projects. Studies on birds, wildlife, plants, historical artifacts and other sensitive topics have been taken into account. He said aboriginal groups and commercial fishers have also been consulted.
Only two people turned out for the first open house in Port aux basques: Burgeo-La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons and a representative from the Fish Food and Allied Workers union.
Many more turned out in Cape ray to see how their community might be affected. Local Service District chair Anne Osmond said she was pleased with the information provided at the open house, as well as with the community turnout.
“A lot of information is being shared with the community,” she said.
Ruth and Dave Potts were two property owners who came to see the presentation. The pair own a seasonal cabin near the Cape Ray Lighthouse.
“We got some information today,” said Mrs. Potts. “We didn’t find anything upsetting. They were eager to address any questions we had.”
She added that she will need more information before supporting the project 100 per cent, but her concerns are few.
Mr. Parsons said his opposition to the muskrat falls deal still stands, including this infrastructure that could be built in his riding.
“I am not in favour of the deal as structured,” he said. “There are too many concerns that have not been addressed yet.”
Mr. Parsons said the whole process in relation to Muskrat Falls has been mishandled, and that anybody opposed to it has been chastised by the provincial government.
“If this project is as good as they say it is, it is going to stand on its own,” he said. “You don’t have to remove scrutiny from it.”