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Churchill Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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The Labradorian community of Churchill Falls seems to exist for one purpose: to maintain a hydroelectric plant in the middle of nowhere, which is, to say, the middle of Labrador. Churchill Falls has a population of about 700, which is almost exactly what it takes to maintain a hydroelectric plant in the middle of nowhere. It once had a population of about 3,000, which was almost exactly what it took during the 1960s to build a hydroelectric plant in the middle of nowhere.

The Churchill Falls Hydroelectric Plant

The hydroelectric plant is massive, mostly because its designers had the luxury of flooding a goodly fraction of Labrador to feed the turbines. Indeed, if they'd flooded any more of Labrador, it would start spilling over the water table into Quebec, which would defeat the purpose of flooding Labrador. The reservoir which feeds the power plant is the Smallwood Reservoir, which takes up 6,460 square kilometres, fully two percent of the 300,000 square kilometres of Labrador. This makes it the largest reservoir in Canada. Only four Canadian lakes (not counting the Great Lakes, which aren't quite all Canadian) are larger than this reservoir.

As it is, this plant provides something like 20% of the total electrical output of Hydro Quebec, with plenty left over for export from Quebec to other provinces and states.

In many respects, the control centre for this plant resembles a villain base from a James Bond movie:

  • It is buried underground. This is mostly for convenience, because the turbines are, of necessity, buried underground, near the waterfalls from which they draw power.

  • The technology is at a 1970s level, with huge banks of period supercomputers to control the machinery.

  • The master control booth, overlooking the computers proudly displays its organizational logo, a stylized abbreviation 'CF', presumably for 'Churchill Falls'.

  • Each person who enters the complex is issued protective gear, namely, earplugs to dull the roar of the mighty turbines.

  • There are escape vehicles cached throughout the complex, in case of catastrophe. The one thing that detracts from the overall villainous look of the base, is that the escape vehicles are decommissioned school buses.

The Town of Churchill Falls

The town of Churchill Falls is connected to the rest of North America via the Trans-Labrador Highway, so it occasionally has to put up with people who drive mobile homes there. Unfortunately, it has no mobile home hook-ups. Fortunately, it has two other choices for lodging. One is the Churchill Falls Inn, which is owned by the hydroelectric company. The Inn shares a building with the post office, the grocery store, the town government, the local cinema, and the high school. This building almost qualifies as a functioning arcology1.

The other lodging choice is the Spruce Goose Inn. It has the advantage of being independently owned, and union-friendly. It has the disadvantage of being impossible to find, except by word of mouth. The contact instructions include the phrase, 'Stop at the gas station to get the key.'

For dining, there are also two choices. One, of course, is the Churchill Falls Inn. The other is a lounge, popular with the workers, which serves hamburgers and the like.

For activities, the hydroelectric plant is happy to give tours, roughly twice a day, including a convenient evening tour. Like other communities in Labrador, Churchill Falls dreams of starting a tourist industry, which would presumably come from snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. However, there seems to be no obvious demand for this at present.

1Arcology is a term meaning a self-sufficient community contained within one building.

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