Archaeological Assessment – Proposed Taltson Hydroelectric Expansion Project

Brad Novecosky (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2008-005)

In July and August 2008, Golder Associates Ltd. conducted an archaeological survey on behalf of the Dezé Energy Corporation for the proposed Taltson Hydroelectric Expansion Project. This project involves upgrades at the existing 18 MW Taltson Twin Gorges power plant and the installation of transmission lines from Twin Gorges to the Diavik, Snap Lake, Ekati, and Gahcho Kué diamond mines. The archaeological survey was completed under Northwest Territories Class 2 Permit No. 2008-005.

Archaeological reconnaissance focused on a one-kilometre wide corridor along the length of the proposed transmission line route, as well as on the construction footprints of the proposed canal, control structure, and associated staging areas. Reconnaissance was also conducted along the proposed winter road route and at several staging areas. The survey aimed to identify areas where the proposed project and its activities could potentially impact heritage resources. Special attention was given to known areas of high site density, and areas of anticipated high archaeological potential, such as river crossings, portages, shorelines, and elevated topography. Along the transmission line route, survey focussed at the points of intersection, where the lines would change direction and larger towers would be required.

Survey was accomplished by low level helicopter reconnaissance in conjunction with pedestrian survey with shovel testing in areas with limited surface visibility. Shovel testing was necessary in areas below the treeline where vegetation hindered visibility. Above the treeline, subsurface testing was not necessary to locate sites, with good exposure and a lack of vegetation making archaeological materials clearly visible on the surface. Johnny Desjarlais, aboriginal assistant from Fort Smith, assisted the field survey from Twin Gorges to the Lockhart River.

A total of nine previously unrecorded archaeological sites were identified during the survey. Only one was found below the treeline; a small quartz scatter on exposed bedrock on the shoreline of Sparrow Bay (Nonacho Lake). The remaining eight sites were located above the treeline on exposed eskers or sandy ridges. These sites were predominantly lithic debitage scatters. However, KjNt-12, located between the Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake diamond projects, contained 6 tent rings and KlNr-3, located approximately 3.5 km south of Zyena Lake on a high point of a rocky esker, contains the remains of a cairn constructed with four large cobbles. LaNr-4, also identified on an esker 2.5 km west of Outram Lake, contained the remains of several axe-cut pieces of spruce trees. The wood was very weathered with heavy lichen growth present.

(Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre)