The North Spur is a spit of land on one side of the lower Churchill River, to be used in the creation of the province’s new hydroelectric dam.
The sensitive soils of the spur and surrounding area have led to criticisms of the project, with arguments the land should not be used for such a crucial and costly power project.
Now the oversight committee assigned to provide the public with information on the project has noted a change in the schedule for the Spur.
The committee report has noted the date for a ‘North Spur Works Ready for Diversion’ milestone has changed from November 2015 to September 2016.
“Nalcor has advised the committee that the schedule change allows project activities to be spread over three seasons instead of two. This approach reduces cost and schedule risk, ensures activities are completed with the most efficient use of resources, and has no impact on the scheduled first power date of late 2017,” said Natural Resources minister Derrick Dalley in a statement.
The committee report notes an independent engineer’s review has found the North Spur plans are adequate and there is no significant hazard from a stability problem at the Spur during the hydroelectric dam’s construction or operations.
The committee’s first report was issued July 31. Its latest covers work through September and notes $1.75 billion has been spent on the project to date.
At this point, the overall budget of $6.99-billion still stands.
A contingency budget of $224.5 million has not been tapped.
The document includes a breakdown of the budget, not to the level of individual contract, but to various spending categories — for example environmental and regulatory compliance, aboriginal affairs, and procurement and construction.
The project as a whole is on time. However, looking specifically at construction progress at Muskrat Falls, progress “has been tracking slower than planned,” the report notes. That said, planned milestone dates remain in place.
Contracts worth about five per cent of the total project cost have yet to be awarded. Nalcor stated these contracts — for the North Spur stabilization works; the construction of the North and South Dams; and the supply and installation of the mechanical and electrical auxiliaries — will be awarded in 2015.
“The provincial government is monitoring the progress of the Muskrat Falls project closely, as is Nalcor in its capacity as project manager,” stated the provincial minister of Natural Resources.
“Today’s report from the oversight committee indicates that overall the project remains on budget and on schedule. While some schedule pressures have been highlighted, first power is still on track for late 2017. Through extensive analysis, this project has been shown to be the best way to meet our electricity needs and diversify our economy. Diligent oversight and management will continue.”
The next oversight committee report is expected in February.