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Muskrat Falls project manager had concerns about Astaldi early on

Ron Power, a contractor working for Nalcor, testifies Tuesday at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry in St. John’s.
Ron Power, a contractor working for Nalcor, testifies Tuesday at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry in St. John’s. - Joe Gibbons

Nalcor Energy accepted company’s commitment to original schedule, contractor Ron Power says

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

On the stand Tuesday at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, Ron Power was asked about contracting Astaldi for the intake, powerhouse, spillway and transition dams, and the progression of that work.

He said he had some concerns early on about Astaldi — when he didn’t see the company making the progress he had expected after a “limited notice to proceed” in September 2013.

“I had the sense that Astaldi weren’t quite in with both feet,” he testified. “That’s kind of the sense I was getting.”

Power is not a direct Nalcor Energy employee, but a contractor working for Nalcor. He began on the project in 2008, becoming general project manager for construction. He was named deputy project manager responsible for generation (as opposed to transmission), after the project was split under Nalcor Energy president and CEO Stan Marshall. He continues to work at Muskrat Falls.

He was asked by inquiry co-counsel Irene Muzychka why there was a decision to proceed with Astaldi in 2013.

That’s also given that an adviser to Astaldi was warning the contractor at the time about the delay in a final contract award, saying milestone dates for the project would not be met.

“I had the sense that Astaldi weren’t quite in with both feet." — Ron Power

She asked if it was something the project team was concerned about as well.

“We expressed concern, but we had a very large, international hydro constructor who are saying they’d meet the milestones,” Power said.

He said the company scored well on its bid evaluation, and Astaldi leadership made the commitment to the schedule.

“But you took them at their word?” Muzychka asked.

“Yeah, I guess we did, yeah,” Power replied.

Past witnesses, including witnesses from Astaldi’s team, acknowledged the slow start to the company’s work at Muskrat Falls.

Power said it’s true that he actually proposed at one point to take over Astaldi’s part of the project. “That might have been back in 2014 days that I might have had that notion. (…) But I was reminded very curtly by everyone that we’re not contractors, we’re not a construction company, we’re an owner’s team,” he said.

He pushed back against criticisms of project team members who moved back and forth between St. John’s and Labrador, as the project progressed.

Power said there was construction management on site, and it is not unusual to have financial authority, or change order approvals, based at a head office and not at the worksite.

“That’s the way projects are done,” he said, referring to the Paradise River Hydroelectric Generating Station as an example, where change orders went through St. John’s.

Having everyone at the worksite also uses space and adds cost unnecessarily, he suggested.

Early in his testimony, Power was asked about the limited number of text massages he had to provide to the inquiry. He said he did not keep texts simply because he does not like clutter on his phone.

There were some more recent texts submitted to the inquiry and entered into evidence, showing discussion of the inquiry and critical review of some of the testimony of past witnesses.

Power continues on the stand Wednesday.


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