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Large portion of Point Edward getting archeological assessment

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Enbridge prepping for new natural gas pipelines

Cathy Dobson  

Seventeen blocks within the Village of Point Edward is being assessed for any sign of Indigenous artifacts.

An archeological dig is being conducted along the boulevards of most of the northeast portion of the village in preparation for new gas pipelines and services, says Steve Presant, a spokesman for Enbridge Gas.

“Following a background study of the project area, it was determined that there may be archeological resources buried in the area,” Presant wrote in response to The Journal’s enquiry.

Teams of work crews are spread out along the boulevards of Point Edward, digging and sifting dirt in strategic areas.

On Friday, a human foot bone was found on the northeast corner of Victoria and Albert streets. No further details are known yet about the bone or what it means to the dig. 

The archeological work is taking place on village-owned property on Ernest, Arthur, Victoria, Albert, Alfred and Louisa streets, according to the village’s CAO Jim Burns.

Those blocks are also dotted with yellow “locate” flags that indicate where gas lines currently exist.

Depending on the outcome of the archeological digs, Enbridge plans to start next year to replace pipelines and gas services on property that is village-owned, as well as some private property.

“In those cases, we will be in contact with any affected property owners prior to the start of any work on their property,” Presant said.

It’s necessary to remove and replace some of the aging underground natural gas pipelines and services owned by Enbridge Gas.

Similar work has occurred in Sarnia in recent years, said Presant.

When pipeline replacement commences, several methods will be used that will minimize digging, he said. 

“The work will be completed using Enbridge Gas’ standard construction practices, which include digging a trench, horizontal directional drilling, installing the pipeline in the trench, testing the pipeline, grading the right of way and restoring the area.”

Contractors will then need to install new gas metres and tie into the existing services at customers’ homes.

This week’s archeological assessment is required by the province’s Cultural Heritage Act.  Any discovered artifacts will be collected, labelled and stored, according to Presant, adding that the Indigenous community is involved and any artifacts of interest will be returned. As of presstime, it wasn’t clear what will happen as a result of the foot bone found Friday.

However, many important and interesting artifacts have been uncovered in Point Edward over the years.

In 2013, a couple living on Alexandra Avenue were digging in their yard and found the remains of an Indigenous woman from between the late 1500s to the early 1600s.

Many more artifacts were discovered during construction of the splash pad near the Blue Water Bridge in 2017. Items estimated to be 1,000 to 2,000 years old were found and temporarily halted the work.

Writer David Plain has written that the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia takes its name from an Anishnaabek word describing the gathering place where Lake Huron flows into the St. Clair River. First Nations families gathered there for millennia.

Western University archeologist Neal Ferris is on record saying significant remains are along the riverside that are tied to a period of about 2,000 to 1,500 years ago. 

At that time, Indigenous people travelled through this region to fish and harvest. 

Back in 1993, archeological digs uncovered thousands of artifacts where the second span of the bridge was to be built. At that time, human skeletal remains were found, as well as more than 410,000 artifacts including projectile points, net sinkers, ceramic pottery, fish and animal bones, and stone tools.

The portion of the village currently under assessment was one of the last in the municipality to be developed. Trucked-in fill was required to support housing construction in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Burns said.

It’s not known where the fill was sourced. 

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