Colville Lake Airport Project

Alan Youell (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2010-013)

On behalf of the Department of Transport, Government of the Northwest Territories, FMA Heritage Inc. conducted an archaeological investigation for a proposed airport development situated approximately 2.5 kilometres southwest of the community of Colville Lake. The specific purpose of the archaeological component of the Colville Lake Airport Project was to identify archaeological, historical and traditional land use sites at the proposed airport, rerouted winter road and gravel borrow source locations.

To conduct the assessment, archaeologists Alan Youell and Laura Roskowski were assisted by elder/wildlife monitor Charlie Kochon of Colville Lake. Field reconnaissance consisted of a pedestrian traverse and intensive surface examination to determine the presence of unrecorded archaeological or cultural sites. Shovel tests were excavated adjacent to any newly recorded archaeological sites in order to determine the site’s boundaries.

The areas investigated during the archaeological assessment of Colville Lake Airport Project included the proposed 3934’ runway, apron and taxiway, air terminal building, access road and parking, two potential gravel borrow sources and the rerouted winter road. All of the potential new developments are located on the south side of Colville Lake. Investigation of the developments was conducted under Northwest Territories Class 2 Archaeologists Permit #2010-013.

The proposed airport and rerouted winter road are located south of Colville Lake on a gently sloping landform that is crisscrossed with muskeg, wetlands and seasonal drainages and is vegetated with willow, stunted spruce trees, mosses and lichens. This area is poorly drained with exposed sediments consisting of moist sand intermixed with gravel and cobbles resulting in an assessment of low potential for the identification of archaeological or cultural sites. Surface inspection of the airport and rerouted winter road footprints did not identify any archaeological, historic or traditional land use sites.

The two potential borrow sources, situated west of the proposed airport location, are located on a raised landform supporting a much drier environment. Vegetation consists of spruce trees, alder, juniper, and Labrador tea rooted in well drained sediments of sand intermixed with gravel and cobbles. Visual evidence of a fire having burned across the landform is also present. Based on these factors the borrow source locations have a higher potential for the identification of archaeological or cultural sites. Surface inspection of the borrow source footprints did result in the identification of an archaeological site.

The archaeological site, located north of the existing winter road and on the same landform as one of the potential borrow sources, consists of a lithic scatter concentrated within a 2 X 0.5 metre area. The surface was hand exposed and a representative sample of 25 pieces of lithic debitage was collected from within the lichen layer. In addition to the hand exposure, seven shovel tests were excavated within the site area in order to determine if the site had a subsurface component and to establish site boundaries. A buffer zone around the site was flagged off and the client has agreed with an avoidance recommendation, thereby, mitigating any impact to the archaeological site.

Based on results of this assessment there are no outstanding conflicts between archaeological, historical and traditional land use sites and the development areas.

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