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Mud Lake residents file class action over Churchill River flooding

Mud Lake and Happy Valley-Goose Bay were damaged by flooding recently and many in the community blame the Muskrat Falls project.
Some residents along the Churchill River in Central Labrador have filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Nalcor Energy and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador over flooding they insist was caused by the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Generation Project. — Melissa Best

Provincial government and Nalcor Energy named in suit that blames Muskrat Falls project

A proposed class action filed against Nalcor Energy and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador alleges the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric project caused the flooding that led the emergency evacuation of Mud Lake area and subsequent damage to properties.

The class action, which must be certified by the court before advancing to trial, is being led by Wagner’s Law Firm in Halifax and seeks to recover losses for the residents affected by the flooding.

One of the lawyers representing the firm in this case, Maddy Carter, said they were approached because they are experienced in environmental class actions. The firm is currently working on a suit in Deer Lake relating to a hydroelectric plant and flooding in the community so they are familiar with the general issue.

This suit alleges that the actions of government and the crown corporation in relation to the project constituted unreasonable interference with residents’ property rights and that their actions have been negligent.

Carter said right now there are two defendants but that could change once they become more aware of the inner workings of the relationships between the Province and Nalcor and between Nalcor and any subsidiary companies involved.

Last spring Mud Lake suffered severe flooding after an ice-jam just downstream forced spring runoff water into the community. Locals said that while the community has flooded before, they had never experienced anything like that.

Nalcor Energy said the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam wasn't to blame, but persistent questions caused the government to commission an independent study by Dr. Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt to figure out what happened.

The results of the study were released in October and concluded that the project was not to blame.

"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," Lindenschmidt concluded in the report.

"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."

Carter says the report was not definitive.

“They said that Nalcor was not the cause but our view of that is that there wasn’t really a basis for them to say it and that we would be retaining our own expects to look into it more comprehensively,” Carter told the Labradorian.

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