North

Canol Trail wire cleanup project to move ahead

The federal government is making plans to clean up old telephone wire along the Canol Trail, an abandoned WWII-era pipeline-cum-hiking trail that runs from the N.W.T.'s Sahtu region to Whitehorse.

'I have tripped on that damn wire a million times over the last 10 years!' says hiker Myles Erb

Hikers along the Canol Trail. The rugged trail was originally a pipeline service road built to bring oil from Norman Wells to a refinery in Whitehorse, in case of a possible attack from Japan on Alaska. Completed in 1943, it was abandoned just one year later. (Myles Erb)

The federal government is making plans to clean up gnarled, abandoned wire along the Canol Trail that has been snagging caribou and moose for years.

About 1,600 kilometres of telephone wire followed a pipeline built during the Second World War that snakes through the Sahtu region of the N.W.T. to Whitehorse. The federal government has received a land use permit to built a portable camp for workers who will clean up the wire along the N.W.T. portion of the route.

A set of moose antlers tangled in telephone wires at Mile 170 on the Canol Trail. (Courtesy Norman Yakeleya)
"Bottom line: it's the right thing to do," says Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeyela, who has hiked the entire 355 kilometres of the trail. He's one of several people who've lobbied Ottawa to clean up the wire after seeing the carcasses of several moose and caribou that became tangled in it.

"It looks like someone took a shoe string and just mangled it around the antlers and all around the head," says Yakeleya.

The rugged hiking trail was originally a pipeline service road — called the Canol Road — a joint effort by the U.S. and Canada to bring oil from the newly discovered Norman Wells oil field to a refinery in Whitehorse, in case of a possible attack from Japan on Alaska. Completed in 1943, it was abandoned just one year later.

Since then, several salvage projects were conducted, but much of the legacy of the project remains strewn along the N.W.T. leg of the trail, including derelict buildings, rotting bridges, rusty drums, pipes, vehicles and contaminated soil.

"It makes you heart really sore because you sit there and you imagine how hard it was for the animals to die like that," Yakeleya says.

'A darn good start'

The federal government includes the pipeline on its list of contaminated sites. In 2009, it paid for some wire to be cleaned up along the first 80 kilometres of trail.

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya holds up some of the 1,600 km of abandoned telephone wire littering the Canol Trail. (Myles Erb)
Its latest application to the Sahtu Land and Water Board shows plans for a small crew to collect and consolidate the wire and abandoned telephone poles over the span of four summers.

They'll be stored in a "secure" location and dealt with during future remediation projects. The portable camp will move along the trail as the work progresses.

"I think it's a darn good start," says Myles Erb, who has hiked a portion of the trail each summer for the last decade. He now leads young people along the route and hopes the cleanup will make the trail safer for animals and hikers.

"I have tripped on that damn wire a million times over the last 10 years!"

The federal government is also in the process developing a separate remediation plan for the Canol Trail to deal with the rest of the debris left behind. It's now in the assessment phase.

No one from Aboriginal Affairs was available to comment on the project.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now