(An aerial view of Mud Lake, Labrador. 50 people were forced from their homes because of rising waters. Photo courtesy Scott Hudson.)
APTN National News
More than 50 people from the small village of Mud Lake in Labrador were airlifted from their community early Wednesday morning after severe flooding.
The community sits about 10 km from Happy Valley Goose Bay and sits along the Lower Churchill River, downstream from the controversial hydroelectric project at Muskrat Falls.
And now, residents in the area are pointing the finger at the dam as the cause of the flooding.
In a media release, the provincially owned corporation Nalcor Energy which is responsible for building the multi-billion dollar project stated that mother nature is the problem, not the dam.
“The increased water inflows from upstream as a result of the natural spring thaw are passing through the Muskrat Falls spillway and to the river downstream.”
There’s little argument that ice jams up river where it empties into Lake Melville and the spring thaw are key factors.
But Elder and long-time activist Jim Learning wrote on Facebook that he doesn’t ever remember the lake flooding in the spring.
“Not anybody alive now can remember Mud Lake being evacuated because of flood waters, in any case not in our life time? ” he asked.
“So the question is what is different?” wrote Learning. “Well Nalcor holding back the water is very definitely different.”
The homes in Mud Lake and some surrounding areas are partially under water.
Electricity to the area has been shut off and the Red Cross has stepped in to help families displaced because of the flooding.
The province has offered assistance and temporary shelter. Officials from Municipal Affairs and Environment, Fire and Emergency Services are working to assess the area and figure out next steps.
Labrador’s Liberal MP Yvonne Jones hosted a meeting Friday for Mud Lake residents impacted by the flooding.
On social media, the Labrador Land Protectors group posted that a worker at the site claimed that he saw the release of water – but Nalcor said its operations are not impacting water levels downstream.
Land protector Denise Cole doesn’t buy it.
“That water had to go somewhere,” said Cole. “This is the first spring with Nalcor trying to control that river. I mean, the hypocrisy. Nalcor is saying they’ve done nothing to alter the flow of that river? It’s unbelievable.”
Though issues around methylmercury contamination dominated protests against the hydro project last fall, this week’s flood has reignited concerns over the stability of an area of the dam called the North Spur.
The sandy sediment along the North spur is referred to as quick-clay. Critics argue that the soil of this embankment is too fragile to maintain the dam and if it collapses, will unleash flood waters with little warning. Nalcor has maintained that the engineering at the North Spur is sound
and an emergency plan is in place.
“The greatest fear has been mud Lake being wiped off the map,” said Cole. “And here we are. This is only the first spring that Nalcor has manipulated the river and we’ve got flooding. Imagine if there a dam breach. It’s woken a lot of people up.”
Cole wants an independent review of the North Spur. But the ultimate goal is the Labrador Land Protectors is to shut the whole project down. Cole says it doesn’t make sense for the economy, the environment, or for human rights.
“We don’t want it to end up being lives lost to take action,” said Cole. “We need to get back to the gate and put pressure on government and Indigenous leaders.”