Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wolf Quest Part X: Muskrat Falls

This video isn't really in complete chronological order, so my future biographers will have to keep that in mind. Muskrat Falls is East of Churchill Falls, which is East of Labrador City, but they are all West of Goose Bay and far south of Ellesmere Island. It's simply a video of some footage on my wolf quest using James Taylor recording without permission, but is it really needed when the man does a cover version of a public domain American folk song? I could record this song too, but he's got a better voice. 

Here's a related video without the pop music...

Muskrat Falls has been proposed as a site for another hydro electric plant will be the site of a hydro electric generating plant. One of the ironies of alternative energy sources is that this particular location will be completely altered in order to spare the atmosphere more CO2 which a coal energy plant would produce. There's no easy solution to these problems. Either this innocent river, probably named by an extinct Native American tribe, will be commandeered for energy or the Arctic will be exploited for oil. Or both. These are grave issues for the wolf.

So, this is a historic location that was not exactly a tourist site at the time I was there. Now it has been completely changed and will eventually look similar to Churchill Falls. If my whole quest was to visit Muskrat Falls in its original state and make a video before it was altered forever then I would've been content. But at the time I went there I had never heard of any plans to construct another dam at Muskrat Falls. This all happened at the same time I was passing through and was a complete coincidence that I have video footage of this place that no longer looks the same. 

An odd geologic phenomenon took place, some earth buckling a few billion years and and then some glacial erosion more recently and it ended up creating a very deep river and a natural reservoir and then a narrow spit of land composed of granite, leading back to the naturally deep and wide river. It's unique and that's why Nalcor chose it for the dam site because much of the work has already been accomplished by nature, especially the elevation drop and the impermeable channel.

Ellesmere Island is not on this map

That's not to say constructing a huge generating station under the level of the water, diverting the water around the location and then sending the flow through the generators is a piece of cake. No, Churchill Falls is as incredible as The Hoover Dam, except the majority of the engineering took place underground. The same will be true of Muskrat Falls.

Notice the natural topography lends itself to a dam?

I'm not totally sure of the fate of the spit of exposed rock I am standing on in the video. My research suggests that the actual power generating station is going to be built on the lower Muskrat Falls and I'm standing on the upper Muskrat Falls about 1/2 KM to the West. This must be due to elevation drop. So, the particular exposed rock that I hiked to will be under water. But I actually can't be sure because the maps are not super specific for someone not familiar with the area. From what I can see the lower Falls with become a dam/generating station and the upper falls will be under water.

What puzzles me is that the work area is on the south side of the river...but there was no road on the south side of the river and no bridge. So something must've changed since the time I was there.
This is a good picture I found here. And if you need to know even more go here.

I have mixed feeling about this project because this is the reality if we want clean(er) energy. The people working on that should be proud. It's freezing up there and they will work 24/7 until 2017. It's a major accomplishment in engineering and as I read in Cabot Martin's presentation, this Spirit Mountain spit of land known as the 'North Spur' may not be impermeable after all, but leave it to the engineers to find a solution. 

On the flip side, I think of the innocent frog I saw on the hike down to the Falls. Was the frog consulted on the future of his home?
Out of focus Frog is visibly annoyed he was not mentioned in Nalcor Environmental Impact Statement

 And the Muskrats who periodically swim through the falls, will they be chopped up by the turbines? The fish? The otters? But coal energy plants are much worse in general for wildlife. So isn't a hydro-electric plant preferable? Churchill Falls station was a marvel and it's been providing power for decades. I think the only solution would be limiting human population growth to the limit of current hydro-electric power capabilities. If we need to dam the same river twice, and maybe even three times to keep up with population and energy usage, maybe that's a sign that we need to either decrease our energy use or decrease the number of people using energy. I don't know. It's a stupid thing to suggest. But it's what the Muskrat would probably recommend if he could speak English.

Here are links to the installments of the Wolf Quest

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.