Wood ya believe…

Muskrat Falls does not give me wood.

So I was cruising around the ol’ interweb, trying to keep abreast of Labrador and Newfoundland issues. Last week I noticed a blip of a story buried in the business section of The Labradorian on a topic that I’ve been quite interested in for a number of years: forestry, timber, and wood in Labrador.

Mind you, back in the day (2001) I may or may not have been involved in this little event aimed at earning local people a say in the management of their forest resources, on their own lands (Which they won [opens as PDF file]). One of the problems at the time was that the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) for timber resources was set to jump from 50,000 m3 to possibly 400,000 m3 (but ended up being 200,000 m3) – primarily due to new access on the south side of the Grand River (where the construction road to Muskrat Falls happens to start).

Another problem

A considerable portion of the usable/mill-able timber was being shipped off to the Labrador Liner Board (in Stephenville) to become junk mail. This was a mill which the province had initially promised would be built in Goose Bay (side note: the Lake Melvile forestry is what kicked off Labrador’s boundary dispute). Regardless, this might have been a sign that available wood on the island was in short supply, since they also started to import wood from other provinces to keep that mill open. They even expanded the marine centre dock in Cartwright to handle “greater shipment capacity” in forest Operating Plan District 20.

All this took place in spite of the fact that studies and election promises by the provincial government to open a pulp mill/wood pellet plant/expanded lumber mills/prefab housing for the north in Central Labrador. Apparently the problem with fulfilling these promises has been a lack of capacity to use the resource (which their actions never helped, either). Wait, maybe it was a shortage of resource? Who cares. It was all election fluff (again) designed to get the votes (and wood) out of Labrador.

I tried to find the Halifax Global Management Consultants’ 2006 reportStrategic Plan to Develop Labrador Secondary Manufacturing and Value Added Wood Products Industry, which the province commissioned, but oddly it came off their website just as all this wood became available.

Flash forward to today

We’ve got 40,000+ m3 sitting in piles of 16 foot lengths up on the construction site of Muskrat Falls. That’s enough for every Labrador household to have a free cord of wood. If they’d let you take it.

Which, I might add, they didn’t let people do with the wood from the Trans Labrador Road, much of which is now sitting in big rotten piles. At least, they didn’t let you until they did (against the law apparently). And that’s just a wee drop in the big ol’ bucket that’s waiting to come out.

According to the minister in that Labradorian story, 450,000 m3 is yet to come out before the dam(n) is constructed, which amounts to more than doubling the AAC for all of Labrador. Just imagine all that wood. Sitting in rotting piles.

Unless, of course, you believe Nalcor and previous government reports that 1.89 million m3 of merchantable timber (see pages 5-14 [opens as .PDF]) is available, which, on page 17 of the Appendix III b, they suggest be made available for public use.

The government of Newfoundland agreed by accepting [opens as .PDF] the Joint Review Panel’s recommendations 4.7 (The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will accept responsibility for the resource after it is harvested by Nalcor) and 8.5 (commercial operators have access to the wood, with Nalcor paying the stumpage fees).

Dam the rules

The province agreed to taking all the wood out to reduce methylmercury loading. Perhaps they are simply avoiding the stumpage fees and hassle of taking all the wood out of the reservoir (which led me to the discrepancy between the 450,000 being taken and the 1.89 million cubic meters of wood available). To put it in perspective, that’s enough wood to operate Stephenville for four years, and Grand Falls-Windsor for three.

Or a single wood pellet plant for 47 years.

Besides, what are they doing cutting the wood now anyway? Isn’t this between May and July? Are they clearing the wood out of the reservoir now? Disturbing the area?

Who cares?

Environment Canada, actually. In Canada’s response to the Joint Review Panel Report, they were very clear that the “Migratory Birds Convention Act and its regulations are binding and cannot be held in abeyance by permit or fettered by agreement” (on page 19).

Bang on Mr. Montague…

…for your story in the Labradorian asking, ‘What about all the wood?’ I wanted to help bring it to a wider audience and talk about the apparent double speak on the forest industry in Labrador. We need industry diversification in Labrador, desperately. And this would have been an incredible glut of raw, stacked and ready resources to kick start a lovely timber/pulp/prefab home for the arctic/pellet plant venture. Or maybe it is linked to Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, as some media stories have suggested: power and wood all available to be shipped from Labrador!

Furthermore, it would have reduced the pollution coming from the dam in greenhouse gasses and methylmercury.

But it’s not like they didn’t have time to plan this or anything. Right?

What a waste of wood, jobs, and sensibility.

At the very least, pile it up on the dock and post it on Kijiji or something. I bet the Chinese will come pick it up for free.

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