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Monday, June 29, 2009

DEW line clean-up project a $580 million Cold War legacy

National Defence offers this background on the origin of the DEW line:

During the Cold War, North America relied on radar networks to provide an early warning of airborne attacks inbound over the North Pole. From the early 1950s, a series of isolated radar stations were constructed in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland to identify unfriendly aircraft and direct fighter planes that would intercept them.

The most northerly of the networks, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line of radar sites, was established in the late 1950s and extended along the Arctic coastline (roughly along the 69th parallel) from northwestern Alaska to Iceland. The DEW Line was planned, built and largely funded by the United States according to an international agreement. Out of the 63 sites which comprised the DEW Line, 42 were located within Canadian territory.

In the early 1960s, 21 of these sites were decommissioned and became the responsibility of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The remaining 21 sites continued to be operated by the Department of National Defence (DND) until they were replaced by the North Warning System in 1993.

With DEW line infrastructure now obsolete, the Department of National Defence today announced a $580 million demolition and clean-up project of the 21 remaining sites. This “busy work” for local Aboriginals will no doubt be counted among the jobs created by federal stimulus spending, but it is difficult to see how this project will add to the wealth of the nation. It may, however, be part of Prime Minister Harper's "use it or lose it" Arctic sovereignty strategy.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 29, 2009 | Permalink


I understand the need to clean up after the DEW Line - that part makes sense.

But why defend the Arctic then there is no threat? Cdn sovereignty will not be threatened when 4 of the 5 countries involved there (US, Canada, Norway and Denmark) are close NATO allies and dear friends. Only Russia could be a problem and even then not very much. Save the money from any additional measures for the real war being fought in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

Heck, I'd say sell Hans Island to Denmark for $1 or 5 DK. If someone has a problem with Denmark, then they have serious issues.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-06-29 12:48:24 PM

Actually, Zeb, the Russians have already laid claim to much of the Arctic territory, and there is a growing rift between Canada and other nations, including its NATO allies, about sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, if it ever becomes ice-free and therefore navigable.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-06-29 1:13:27 PM

So what makes anyone think that military means can resolve this circumstance (it's not even an issue as yet, let alone a crisis.)

Let it drag on indefinitely - global warming is a hoax so the Arctic won't be melting anytime soon.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-06-29 1:15:24 PM

Most of the sites in question are not accessible by vehicle. Cleaning them up would require building roads to them, through very rough terrain.

I used to run across these sites, while surveying in northern AB. I'm not sure if they were DEW line or Pinetree line sites, but they were usually on the same vantage points as geodetic survey stations. The trails have been overgrown for decades, and I doubt that many local Aboriginals would have any interest in looking for them.

There isn't much left on these sites, anyway. There's absolutely no reason to disturb them. They should be left for some future generations to wonder who put them there. Someday, some archaeologist will discover than an ancient civilization had a crude communtcation system, possibly to contact their extra-terrestrial ancestors.

Posted by: dp | 2009-06-29 6:05:08 PM

I agree with dp that the DEW line should be left in place. The DEW line is concrete evidence that this is OUR territory. To eradicate it is thoughtless.

And Zeb, the Russians are a threat because the Cold War never ended and the Americans are not only going to let their defenses atrophy, Obama is downsizing and dismantling them.

Posted by: Speller | 2009-06-30 6:59:53 AM

Speller, the DEW was obsoleted within months of its completion by the launch of Sputnik and the dawn of the missile era. Its original function is now handled by the North Warning System. dp in right is that it makes little sense to remove these rusting relics, but at the moment they are evidence of nothing but the consequences of neglect.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-06-30 7:33:21 AM

dp, most of the DEW sites are located on the Arctic coast at the 70th parallel, so you certainly wouldn't have encountered any while in Alberta. Most of the sites are accessible by ship. You're right, though, in that there's little point in going to the trouble.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-06-30 7:41:38 AM

Yes, Shane, I know the history of the Dew line. When I wrote, "the DEW line should be left in place. The DEW line is concrete evidence that this is OUR territory. To eradicate it is thoughtless."
I meant that it is literally "concrete evidence" that this is our territory because of the concrete that was poured to build it upon.
It is a concrete monument to being our territory.

My own father served on the Pine Tree line from 19965-1968 and we only saw him at Christmas and Easter with one visit home because he was a pallbearer at another Airman's funeral and another instance when he was specially requested to be part of the Honour Guard to the Queen's visit to Ottawa in 1967.

Posted by: Speller | 2009-06-30 6:19:20 PM

Exactly my thinking, dp.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-06-30 7:22:33 PM

Do not think that the nato countries will remain friends when push comes to shove over the 24 % of the worlds oil needs in our Arctic and some of the most valualable dimonds on the market. Keep in mind the US had a recent plans to take over canada. It was not for nefee screach, it was for Fort McMurray, Dome Region, and Off shore oil. When it comes economy servival over friendship. Economy takes the front seat with the brother military

Posted by: kencossaboon | 2009-11-12 7:58:34 PM

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