MUD LAKE, LABRADOR, CANADA - NOVEMBER 8, 2019
Watson Rumbolt, 60, is the main provider and protector for his Inuit wife and children, his extended family, and the 48 members of Mud Lake, a tiny Labradorian community that can only be accessed by taking a speedboat across the magnificent Churchill River. He puts caribou, trout and other wild-caught food on the table, uses his carpentry skills to build homes and dogsleds, and shoots the bears that become too threatening to humans. But over the last several years, just as Watson’s once-unflaggable energy began to yield to back and knee pain, a new threat has arisen, one that promises to outlive Watson and, quite possibly, the way of life enjoyed by Mud Lake residents. Just a short way upriver, the state-owned energy company Nalcor is nearing completion on a multibillion dollar hydroelectricity project that dammed the river.
Nalcor has assured the Nunatsiavut Government that the dam, which makes use of an existing outcropping of land known as the North Spur, is safe, but Randy MacMillan, the engineer who performed soil core tests on the Spur, is worried. MacMillan, who is speaking out now in part because he suffers from terminal illness, says that the weak consistency of the clay, and the lack of a bedrock, create a chance of catastrophic collapse, a view that is shared by some outside experts.
Mud Lake residents would like people in New England to consider the environmental and social impacts of Canadian hydropower on local communities. (Photo by Michael G. Seamans/PULITZER CENTER ON CRISIS REPORTING)