Former Apache Pointed Mountain gas plant Phase II Environmental Site

Kurtis Blaikie-Birkigt (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2014-023)

As part of the ongoing efforts to remediate and reclaim the former Apache Pointed Mountain gas field northwest of Fort Liard, WorleyParsons had to conduct environmental drilling in the vicinity of the former gas plant site. The former gas plant is on the northwest side of Fisherman Lake, on sloping ground about 500 m north of a large wetland at the north end of the lake.

From 1965 to 1972 archaeologists, including James Millar and Gloria Fedirchuk from the Universities of Calgary and New Mexico, and Johnny Klondike and other residents from Fort Liard, did archaeological surveys and excavations around Fisherman Lake. They found a large number of sites, from thousands of years old to the recent past. Some of these sites were on the north side of the lake, in and around the former gas plant.

These surveys were done before the invention of GPS technology, so our records of the locations of the site are not as accurate as sites found today. In order to make sure that the environmental drilling program didn’t damage or disturb the sites, or any other archaeological or historic sites. WorleyParsons hired Tree Time Services to do an archaeological survey of the planned drilling area.

I surveyed the area around the former gas plant site on August 11 and 12, 2014. I used written descriptions of the sites from Millar and Fedirchuk’s PhD theses, and historic airphotos of the gas plant area supplied by WorleyParsons to try to find the previously recorded sites. No places in the planned drilling area or the immediate surroundings matched the descriptions. I dug shovel tests, holes about 40 cm wide and 25 to 40 cm deep, in some of the most likely spots, and screened the soil from them, but I didn’t find any artifacts. I also looked for other landforms that would be likely to have sites on them, such as hills, benches and terraces, but didn’t find any in the planned drilling area. The drilling area was a steady slope down to wet ground at the edge of the lake basin.

While I didn’t find the previously recorded sites, or any new artifacts or sites, this project was still a success. I am confident that the previously recorded sites aren’t in the planned drilling area, and won’t be disturbed or damaged by the environmental site assessment, or later reclamation work on the gas plant site. I’m also confident that there are still some very interesting archaeological and historic sites on Fisherman Lake, waiting to be found and studied.

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