Nunatsiavut president Johannes Lampe is calling on Premier Dwight Ball to halt flooding at the Muskrat Falls reservoir until more is done to mitigate the effects of methylmercury.
Lampe broke his silence on Monday two weeks after the revelation that the deadline to cap wetlands at the Muskrat Falls reservoir was “unintentionally missed” by the provincial government earlier this year.
Ball says he took some responsibility for the failure, when questioned at the time.
Lampe says since the July 3 testimony from Ball, he has not received any more information about why the wetland capping has not occurred.
“We’ve asked the premier repeatedly to respond. He has refused to do that. Which leads to a world where we now believe there was never any intention to follow through with commitments that were made in October 2016,” said Lampe, in an interview.
In his testimony at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry Nalcor Energy CEO Stan Marshall had mused about compensation in lieu of the wetland capping. It’s unclear whether any formal negotiations have begun on that matter.
"...we now believe there was never any intention to follow through with commitments that were made in October 2016." — Johannes Lampe
But Lampe says mitigating methylmercury in the Muskrat Falls reservoir is the priority of the Nunatsiavut government.
“There was funding budgeted to do just that. Now, Nalcor had decided to give the three indigenous groups the option of taking this money for compensation. That is something that we don’t want to right now do. We would like to see some wetland capping done before we look at any other options.”
The Muskrat Falls reservoir is due to begin its final flooding on Aug.7.
On Monday, Nalcor Energy passed a request for comment over to the provincial government. Ball was unavailable for comment on Monday, but will speak on the matter on Tuesday.
In April 2018, the Independent Expert Advisory Committee put forth a recommendation to cap the wetlands at the reservoir in an effort to mitigate the release of methylmercury into the Muskrat Falls reservoir.
Nalcor Energy applied to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment for a permit to carry out the capping in July 2018, but the permit was not issued and nothing was done with the wetlands.
The estimated $30-million wetland capping project would ultimately have a minor effect on the release of methylmercury into the reservoir, with estimates that the measure would reduce methylmercury output by one or two per cent.
Lampe says government needs to live up to its commitments – even if it means cost and schedule impacts on the Muskrat Falls project as a whole.
“I believe that the most important thing for Labrador Inuit is the health, the culture, and way of life. The food chain, that’s important to Labrador Inuit. The health of the fish, the birds, the seals,” said Lampe.
“If that is taken away, what do you have?”
Twitter: @DavidMaherNL and @TeleFitz