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Newfoundland agreed to the transfer of power line routes in order to avoid the National Park

8 September 2009 963 views No Comment

Premier Danny Williams has backed away from a proposal to build large power lines through Gros Morne National Park to transmit energy from the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador.

The provincial government has faced criticism for considering the construction of 40-metre-high power lines through the UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Newfoundland.

In July, Williams said it would be up to the federal government to chip in on the estimated $100-million cost of building power lines that would avoid Gros Morne.

But last week, Williams said his government will not proceed with that option, though again he called for a financial boost from Ottawa.

“We are going to go around it, we are not going through it, and on that basis we think it’d be appropriate for the federal government to provide some assistance,” Williams told reporters in St. John’s.

Officials with Nalcor Energy, the province’s energy corporation, have said they’re exploring the option of an alternative route that would go through the Long Range Mountains on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula, bypassing Gros Morne altogether.

But they say that would be more technically and economically challenging because of heavy ice conditions and winds that can reach 160 kilometres per hour.

The proposed $10-billion Lower Churchill project would involve the construction of two hydroelectric generation stations in central Labrador, transmitting 3,074 megawatts of energy — enough to supply the energy needs of 1.5 million homes.

Touted as one of the most promising sources of clean and renewable energy in North America, the Lower Churchill would displace 16 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually — the equivalent of taking 3.2 million cars off the road, according to Nalcor Energy.

Nalcor Energy filed an environmental impact statement for the project in February.

A five-member federal-provincial review panel is expected to decide on the environmental assessment in 2010, the earliest the project could be sanctioned.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L.

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