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Sunken treasure

Could underwater logging be a new industry for Deer Lake?

By Amy Jones

Yaffle.ca is Memorial’s online connecting tool.

One of its most significant jobs is to provide a way for people from outside Memorial to ask for research help. With hundreds of community-suggested opportunities to choose from, your next project is just a click away. Here’s one:

The opportunity

The Town of Deer Lake on the west coast of Newfoundland and Labrador has a rich logging history.

Its first settlers began a pine tree-cutting operation in 1867 and it was selected as the site of a power plant to support the pulp and paper mill at nearby Corner Brook in 1923.

Throughout the years, Deer Lake workers and the Humber River transported logs to the mill; some of those logs are still on the bottom of the lake today.

Deer Lake, N.L.
Photo: Submitted

The Deer Lake Tourism Development Corporation would like to explore the economic feasibility of salvaging the logs from Deer Lake, as well as the potential environmental impacts of such an operation.

Underwater logging has become a viable industry throughout North America, as the timber that is retrieved from waterways is used in niche markets to make luxury wood products.

The old growth timber is often of higher quality than that from more recent operations, and is typically well preserved from the low temperature, light and oxygen conditions underwater.

The project

“We would like to assess the volume of logs that have accumulated, as well as their condition,” said Damon Clarke, economic development officer, Town of Deer Lake.

“We also hope to determine the economic value of the recovered logs, if there is a market for them, and where these markets might exist.”

A side-scan sonar is towed behind a boat to detect sunken logs.
Photo: Submitted

In addition, the group would like to know what equipment would be necessary to transform the logs into market-ready materials, as well as which potential employment and economic development opportunities could be developed.

Mr. Clarke also notes that ensuring the industry is developed in an environmentally conscious way is crucial.

“Importantly, we would like to know what role the logs currently play with respect to lake bottom habitat,” he said.

“As well as the potential impacts removing the logs could have on the plant and animal species that live there.”

There are already multiple partners involved in this project, including the Deer Lake Underwater Search and Recovery Team, which has side-scan sonar equipment, a boat, motor, computer, software and other related equipment that can survey the lake bottom.

Industry partners include the Corner Brook-based Resource Innovations Ltd., as well as the British Columbia-based company AquaTimber. Bringing in a researcher or researchers from Memorial University would make this a well-rounded municipal, industry and academic partnership that would be welcomed by the Town of Deer Lake.

Interested in learning more about this Yaffle opportunity? The Harris Centre’s co-ordinator of knowledge mobilization would be happy to tell you more. Contact Amy Jones at 709-864-6115 or via email.

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