Uncovered artifacts to delay Belle River roundabout project at a cost to town

Indigenous artifacts were found during the Belle River roundabout construction and it's been delayed for three to four weeks. The Town of Lakeshore will be paying for all incurred costs.

Lakeshore mayor is worried the project will be significantly delayed, with the town paying for it

The roundabout construction in Belle River is held up for three to four weeks, for now. (David Horemans/CBC)

The Belle River roundabout construction is on hold for three to four weeks for archeological test digs. And depending on what crews find, the Town of Lakeshore's mayor said the delay could be much longer.

Crews found some arrowheads, pottery and tools revealed to be Indigenous artifacts during early stages of the project at Notre Dame and West River Streets. Mayor Tom Bain said if they are remnants of an overnight camping spot, a complete dig may be in order.

"It could mean a significant delay in completing the roundabout," he said.

The mayor made comparisons to the Puce roundabout that was held up for almost a year. He said the delay was costly for the Town of Essex.

"It was very close, probably a little over $1.5-million delay in the project to have all of the archeological digging and then have the classification completed afterward," said Bain.

Amanda Black says finding artifacts help build a more complete picture of the people who used to live in the area centuries ago. (Michael Hargreaves/CBC)

'It's a special job'

On the other hand, finding these artifacts mean there will be a more complete picture of Indigenous history in the geographic area, said Amanda Black.

Black is the president of the Windsor chapter of the Ontario Archeological Society, who has worked on the South Kent wind farm, the Puce roundabout and the Sandwich roundabout.

"It's a special job to do, to be able to touch these artifacts that haven't been seen in thousands of years in some cases," she said. "We've been able to prove that in fact there have been people living here since the glaciers receded."

She said sometimes it's not about the specific artifacts they find, but rather where they find them and the contextual information it gives archeologists with regard to the living patterns of people who were here centuries past.

Unfortunately for the Lakeshore project, there isn't much of a way to speed up the digging process.

Black said it can depend on the type of soil condition at the site, and for the Belle River project, the soil is rather compact and harder to dig.

Once the crews resurface the artifacts, they are bagged per unit, washed, analyzed, catalogued then written into a report.

After that, they either go into storage at a climate-controlled space or back to First Nations groups.

Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain gives insight into the delayed construction of a Belle River roundabout. 9:28

No cost relief

While finding artifacts wasn't a surprise, Bain said at town council they've talked about staying away from roundabout projects despite them being a more preferred method of traffic control, because of the potential costs.

To help out the town, he thinks the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport should front some of the costs as the digs are mandated by the ministry.

"I think the least they could do was reach in their pockets and actually totally finance or at least partially finance it," he said.

Bain said they will be approaching the ministry next week to talk about financing the digs.

Currently the project is budgeted for around $1.5 million.