Working Together to Preserve History on Saddle Island

Person in PPE against a land and sky scape.

Following extensive planning and preparation, from April 8-10, Labrador line crews from L’Anse-au-Loup, Mary’s Harbour and Happy Valley – Goose Bay worked to dismantle a very unique pole line on Saddle Island, a National Historic site, in Red Bay.

A Little Bit of History

In 2021, our team received a request for upgrades to the transmission line providing power to the Coast Guard Lighthouse (operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada) on Saddle Island. After receiving feedback from Parks Canada that there were some sensitivities around this work – including archaeologically significant sites on/near the island and rare, protected plants – the team at our Goose Bay Office connected with our Environmental Services Department.

Our teams joined forces with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada, as well as Federal and Provincial archaeological groups and botanists, to plan how to best perform this upgrade work. In 2022, members of our Environment and our Labrador Transmission and Rural Operations teams completed a site visit with the Parks Canada Impact Assessment Officer, the Cultural Resource Management Advisor for Red Bay, and federal and provincial archaeologists and botanists, to assess what challenges the teams might encounter and what precautions would need to be put in place for this work.

As a result, a decision was made to decommission the transmission line and install a solar panel to provide power for the navigational aid light. Parks Canada was very pleased with this decision as it was a low maintenance option to provide the power that was needed to keep the light operational. With the new solar panel in place, a permit was obtained early in 2024, with specific criteria from Parks Canada, for the decommissioning of the transmission line.

Unique and Challenging Work

This one kilometre line, consisting of 13 poles, had worked to power the navigational aid light at the Red Bay National Historic Site on Saddle Island since 1971. From the photos, you can see part of what made this work so unique – one of the poles was on a small chunk of rock, in the middle of the bay, and the line and poles extended onto the island.

This meant that logistically, the dismantling work was challenging. Due to ice conditions in the bay, transportation was limited to helicopter, which was used to transport the team to and from the site, as well as remove the dismantled materials (including poles and a transformer). During a small period of more optimal conditions, a boat was used to reach the pole in the middle of the bay so that it could be dismantled and brought to shore.

The fact that this work was happening at a National Historic Site, added significantly to the sensitivity of the project. Parks Canada had very specific measures in place to ensure the environmental protection of the site and to ensure the historical resources of the site were not impacted by our work.

Our teams worked diligently to follow these precautions and minimize our impact on this historic site. This included very precise landing spots for the helicopters, to avoid protected plant species and archaeological and cultural sites on the island. The poles were cut as low to the ground as possible, and vegetable oil (yes, vegetable oil!) was used to lubricate the chainsaws that were used – an extra environmental protection measure, as part of our permitting requirements from Parks Canada.

This was a demanding and logistically challenging project that involved years of coordination and collaboration by the planning team, as well as amazing work by the crew on the ground who completed the sensitive dismantling work with great care. Great work everyone!