My perspective -
With the expropriation of the hydro assets of AbitibiBowater by the province, the new corporation Nalcor Energy has taken on a new set of responsibilities and more importantly liability. Maintaining the water shed at Red Indian Lake and managing water control on the Exploits River is now in government hands and that brings huge responsibility.
The province created Nalcor Energy in May 2007. Nalcor is the parent company of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, the Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation and the Oil and Gas Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition to looking after the Bull Arm Construction site, Nalcor has also been given full responsibility to manage the AbitibiBowater hydro assets.
The province is well versed in generating hydro electricity, but managing a watershed as big as the one around Red Indian Lake brings a whole new mind set to managing this asset. Nalcor has little water shed management experience, thus they need to manage this new-found asset very carefully until all of their people can be brought up to speed.
Just who is in control today should be a cause of great concern for all of us.
For instance, just who is responsible for the daily gate changes at the Millertown Dam?
Who is undertaking the snow survey to determine the extent of the spring run off?
Who is working with the town of Badger to control and manage water flow around that community?
In the past the answer was simple. AbitibiBowater and the power department there handled all of the critical decisions around water control. But with the province and AbitibiBowater now locked in an expropriation stand off, I wonder how comfortable everyone is with the whole situation.
I have to wonder who will accept responsibility should the town of Badger flood once again.
Where will the blame be placed should something go wrong?
Who is meeting with the Mayor there on a regular basis?
One would like to think the professionalism of both the company and the province will play a role in seeing that all of these responsibilities are handled in a proper manner with public safety in mind. But you can't be too sure these days. This expropriation is new to everyone and there is very little communication around this issue that makes me wonder if everyone is on the same page. I sure hope so.
As I noted in another column, I wonder if the province is fully up to speed on just what they have expropriated and how it all works.
For example, under the terms of the legislation the province expropriated two small dams in the water shed that simply don't exist. Obviously someone didn't do the homework that now begs the questions are there any other holes in this expropriation document?
With the expropriation of Reid Lot 59 does the province now own Grand Falls House?
The company guesthouse is built on that particular Reid Lot so one can assume (rightly or wrongly) that the ownership of the Grand Falls House is now in question. So many questions, so few answers.
While on the subject of the guest house and its historic value to the region, there is speculation the historic home will be sold once this expropriation matter is settled and actual ownership determined. It has been suggested the home be donated to the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor. But what would the town do with it? What will happen to the artifacts at the Grand Falls House? In any event, it's just one on the long list of questions to be asked and eventually answered.
Getting back to Nalcor, the province's new energy giant, it appears as if the new agency and its people are now ready to take full responsibility as soon as the AbitibiBowater withdrawal takes place.
One can only hope the transfer will be an easy one with all cards on the table. Co-operation between the company and Nalcor Energy is critical if everything is to run smoothly. It's my understanding government officials have been in Grand Falls-Windsor monitoring the situation as best they can. One thing is certain, it's a whole new ball game for the province when it comes to actually maintaining the company's hydro infrastructure.
When it comes to public safety however the province now has a mandate to ensure the public that all aspects of this expropriation will be handled with the public's safety in mind.
With this expropriation comes new responsibility and liability especially during the spring runoff. I hope the line of communication is open especially to the town of Badger.
Roger Pike writes from Grand Falls-Windsor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.