Just over a week ago, Cory Billard posted some photos on Facebook of the amazing views available from the new transmission line constructed along the Northern Peninsula.
What the Port au Choix resident really wanted to accomplish was to draw attention to the fact these impressive perspectives from the Long Range Mountains will soon be gated off and won’t be so easily accessible by the public.
Sparked by Billard’s social media post, a petition opposing the imminent gating of the new transmission line road was started a few days later by a group of ATV enthusiasts going by the name of NLATV. The online petition has been steadily gathering support ever since it began July 26.
The new transmission line and the road that runs along it were built as part of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project to deliver power from the Lower Churchill in Labrador to the island of Newfoundland. While the Lower Churchill Management Corporation, a subsidiary of Nalcor Energy, upgraded or constructed around 1,100 kilometres of road along the length of the transmission line from Muskrat Falls to eastern Newfoundland, only one section will have public access restricted.
That section is on the Northern Peninsula, from near Brian’s Pond in the north to Eagle Mountain River in the south. Gates will be placed at these locations which will render them inaccessible by ATV.
“It’s not right,” Billard said in an interview this week. “The taxpayers paid for this project and everyone should have the right to use it.”
No one from Nalcor was made available for a requested interview for this story. An emailed response sent by Karen O’Neill, the Lower Churchill Management Corporation’s communications manager, stated Nalcor has a legal requirement to remove or restrict access on newly created roads which are deemed to impact business operations of outfitters by allowing public access.
The corporation said the decision to install the gates was made after extensive consultations with outfitters.
Once the gates have been installed, wrote O’Neill, the area will return to the same access that was in place prior to the construction of the transmission project.
Restricted road access, she noted, will also apply to outfitters in the area.
this is the only access restriction along the route of the new transmission line at this point in time, Nalcor is developing a plan that will identify which roads are essential for the operation and maintenance of the transmission lines in Labrador and on the island. O’Neill’s email stated the company will continue to consult with stakeholders as it develops its access road decommissioning plan.
As of Wednesday, the petition against gating the road was quickly closing in on 800 signatures.
Billard said the plan is to present the petition to Nalcor to see if it will change its mind. He said the petition’s organizers are also hoping to get the support of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore, who is the Liberal legislature member for the Northern Peninsula district of St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Meadows.
The Western Star requested an interview with Mitchelmore, but he was not made available as of press time Wednesday.
Billard said he is not interested in impeding outfitters from making a living, but said there is more to the Newfoundland and Labrador’s outdoors than fishing and hunting.
He said this new access road represents opportunities for eco-tourism and recreation that should be taken better advantage of.
“This is the first link that we got that connects the Northern Peninsula to the rest of the island that I can get on my side-by-side or Ski-doo and go right across the island,” he said. “We should be able to do that with this road and this area shouldn’t be just left for the outfitters.”