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The Path to First Power

A critical step on the path to first power from the Muskrat Falls generating facility is the creation of the reservoir (impoundment). The reservoir is the area upstream of the Muskrat Falls facility – it extends 59km upstream of the facility to Gull Island.

We are currently holding the water level in the Muskrat Falls reservoir at approximately 32m. Later this week, we expect to resume impoundment and raise the water level in the reservoir to 39 m – the reservoir’s full supply level. 

We have prepared important information to ensure you are aware of the process, timelines and most importantly, how to avoid potential hazards in and around the river and stay safe. 

Reservoir Impoundment

Impoundment is the process of increasing the water elevation upstream of the Muskrat Falls facility to create a reservoir. There are several steps required to create the reservoir.

During impoundment we restrict the water passing through the Spillway to increase the water level in the lower Churchill River.

As planned, we are currently holding the water level in the reservoir at approximately 32m. All of our inspections on the structures have indicated they are behaving as expected. Later this week, we expect to resume impoundment and raise the water level by a rate of around a half a metre per day up to 39m – the reservoir’s full supply level. Impoundment is expected to be completed by the end of September.

As work continues on the installation of the turbines and generators in the powerhouse, the river will continue to flow through the Spillway. 

Safety Awareness During Impoundment

Your safety is our top priority 
During impoundment, there are a number of hazards that will exist in and around the reservoir area. Conditions in the river, along the banks, and in the newly impounded areas, will be constantly changing and can change rapidly. To ensure public safety during this time, it is important to avoid the Muskrat Falls reservoir area between Muskrat Falls and Gull Island. 

For your safety:

  • While we are raising water levels, avoid the area between the Muskrat Falls facility and Gull Island.
  • Be aware of potential hazards, such as trees sticking out of the water, floating logs and sandbars.
  • Stay back from the river’s edge and banks along the reservoir. Slumping and slides can occur as these are regular events on the lower Churchill River.
  • Be aware of changes in water levels.
  • Stay away from the facility as there is a strong water force upstream and downstream of the Spillway.

Please do not access the North Spur from the river
During impoundment, the North Spur portage trail will remain closed. Following impoundment to full supply level, the portage trail that travels over the North Spur will be re-established and river users will be notified when it is open.

Please refer to the impoundment map below that shows the current river boundary and the new river boundary after full impoundment to 39m. The map below shows that in some locations, the river will get wider by expanding into the low lying areas.

Important Public Safety Information

Please pay attention to safety signage
There are a number of safety hazards near the Muskrat Falls facility. We have placed signs to warn river users of these hazards. It is important for river users to always stay away from the facility as there is a strong water force upstream and downstream of the spillway.

We will issue regular safety notifications to the public throughout the impoundment process.

The Muskrat Falls facility has been marked with safety signs. If you are in the lower Churchill River valley, here’s what you should to do to stay safe:

  • Avoid waterways upstream and downstream of generating facility.
  • Obey all danger and warning signs and stay a safe distance from the safety boom.
  • Stay well back from the edge of a waterway or steep slopes along the reservoir. These areas may be slippery or unstable.
  • Be cautious of dry areas below dams. Water levels can quickly change and sandbars can become exposed.
  • Stay away from generating facility structures.

Monitoring the Performance of Our Facility

The Muskrat Falls generating facility has been built to the highest standards of dam safety and construction and the facility is monitored and constructed to meet Canadian Dam Association Dam Guidelines.

We have a comprehensive Dam Safety Program for Muskrat Falls developed by SNC-Lavalin. Our dam safety monitoring is designed to assess the force/pressure of the water from the reservoir on permanent structures of the Muskrat Falls facility including the South Dam, Powerhouse, Spillway, North Dam, North Spur and three Transition Dams.

Our dam safety team uses a combination of manual and automated processes to frequently monitor the generation facilities to confirm that the structures are performing as designed. Our trained staff frequently walks around the structures inspecting, observing and recording their behaviour. They also travel by helicopter to survey the entire reservoir area. Automated monitoring includes observing and analysing a variety of instruments that measure and record such things as water pressure and seepage, structure movement, water level and temperature. The image below lists the instruments installed for the generation structures and the conditions they monitor.

Following the start of impoundment, we will keep stakeholders informed through our weekly updates. In addition to providing information about water levels, we will also issue a dam safety monitoring report with information and observations from our dam monitoring program. For an overview of our Dam Safety Monitoring Program, please click here.

Dam Safety Weekly Monitoring Summary Reports

Our Dam Safety Weekly Monitoring Summary Report provides a summary of the monitoring and instrumentation readings for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating facility. These reports will be issued weekly during impoundment of the Muskrat Falls reservoir.   

Stay Informed

We will continue to provide updates here as well as on our Facebook page (facebook.com/NalcorEnergy) and through Twitter (@NalcorEnergy). We will also share more information through our Stakeholder Updates.   

If you have a question, please contact us:
E: lowerchurchill@nalcorenergy.com
T: 1-888-576-5454
Office: 18-21 Burnwood Drive, Happy Valley-Goose Bay

MUSKRAT FALLS PROJECT