Fish ladder using nearly 500 concrete blocks under construction April 9, 2020, leading to pond and pumping station to lift salmon over the obstacle created by the June 2019 Big Bar landslide in the Fraser Canyon. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Fish ladder using nearly 500 concrete blocks under construction April 9, 2020, leading to pond and pumping station to lift salmon over the obstacle created by the June 2019 Big Bar landslide in the Fraser Canyon. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Feds to move salmon over Big Bar landslide with fish cannon along Fraser River

Water levels rising now after months of drilling and blasting at the Big Bar site north of Lillooet

There’s cautious optimism at the Big Bar landslide site on the Fraser River, as officials prepare for the first salmon to arrive in late May with a pneumatic “fish cannon” to get them past the slide.

The fish pump is one of a series of possible measures planned to help move the spawning fish past the blockage, said Gwil Roberts, director of the landslide response team for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“Obviously we want to see fish passage completely restored,” Roberts said on a conference call April 27. “If they can’t move across the slide this season, we will have measures in place to help them across.”

At the same time, water levels are rising fast with spring freshet at the site in the Fraser River north of Lillooet.

Last summer the massive rock slide was discovered after a part of the canyon cliff sheared off and fell into the river. That created strong flows, a powerful waterfall, and an obstruction in the river that prevented thousands of migrating Fraser River salmon from making it to their spawning grounds.

Remediation measures include building a “nature-like” fishway with huge boulders, and construction of a fish ladder alongside a pneumatic “fish cannon” that will “whoosh” fish above the river in tubes and move them upstream.

Asked what percentage of fish would likely make it past the site this summer, Roberts said it was impossible to predict and they will only know by the end of the summer. The bulk of salmon spawners won’t arrive until the fall.

Massive boulders measuring two metres wide that make up the “fishway” are designed to create pools in between for the fish to rest in. But they only work at low water, however and are now completely covered with the start of freshet over the past week.

“We hope it will be well used eventually,” Roberts said. “Fish are not at the site right now, by the way. They normally arrive in late May.”

The slide has led to huge mortalities from key Fraser salmon stocks, such as chinook and early stuart sockeye, which are already a conservation concern.

Construction of the fish ladder is now underway in-river using about 500 concrete blocks. The ladder is a fish delivery system planned for May to August, to help artificially lift the fish into a holding area. From there a pneumatic fish pump, the “fish cannon” collect them from holding pools and “whoosh” them through a series of tubes to the upstream part of the river.

“If we can’t use the fish pump, we will transport them by truck upstream of the slide site,” Robert said.

They are working in earnest to plan to help move fish with these measures, Roberts said, but ultimately they want them swimming past the slide on their own volition.

READ MORE: Work at Big Bar a race against time

Water levels are coming up steadily with spring freshet for the past week, Roberts noted, which is a concern. They were “blessed” with low water levels over the winter construction period.

Prime contractor Peter Kiewit & Sons had a “very successful three months,” of drilling and blasting, Roberts said, as they had been on-site since January.

READ MORE: Long-awaited blasting started in February

Work by the contractor included punching in a road on the west side in extremely difficult terrain, removing large boulders and reducing the outcropping known as the ‘east toe’ using stringent safety standards in hazardous rockfall conditions.

The huge volume of water, and the five-metre waterfall, were factors in preventing salmon from getting across the slide last summer.

That triggered a tripartite joint effort in July 2019 by federal and provincial officials and First Nations to clear the obstruction.

The remediation measures being introduced are an effort to help fish get over the blockage if natural fish passage is once again obstructed.

The site is on the traditional territory of the Secwepemc Nation, specifically High Bar First Nation and Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. A First Nations panel has been involved in the decision-making from the start.

Contingency planning for the enhancement of stocks returning to the upper Fraser watershed is also ongoing. A monitoring program throughout the salmon migration period will gather as much information as possible and to aid the implementation of the contingency plans.

A trap-and-transport option is also being planned to scoop up salmon below the slide and release them up river if need be.

For more see DFO’s Big Bar Landslide Response webpage or the Province of B.C.’s Big Bar Landslide Incident webpage.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

DFOlandslide

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tom Lennox finds peace when he runs in the Cumberland Forest. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly a year. Photo supplied
Cumberland runner nears 366 consecutive days on the trails

Cumberland resident Tom Lennox has been running a minimum of five kilometres… Continue reading

Courtenay’s Ace Brewing Company’s Jet Fuel IPA was chosen for second place in the annual Canadian Brewing Awards. Photo submitted
Courtenay brewery takes silver medal at Canadian Brewing Awards

“It’s huge - they are the biggest awards in Canada that you can get (in the brewing industry).”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District board is concerned about having to fund more than just hospitals like the one in the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Strathcona board worried over funding more than hospitals

Island Health points to seniors care to reduce demand at acute care sites

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Courtenay area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

40 Knots Winery recently completed a major project on their vineyard terrace by installing 360-degree glass panels for year-round use.
Comox winery aims for year-round experience with glass-surrounded terrace

40 Knots Winery recently completed a major project on their vineyard terrace

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

First We Eat: Food Security North of 60 is featured at the Feb. 5-13 World Community Film Festival. Photo supplied
First We Eat celebrates resourcefulness of Yukoners

First We Eat: Food Security North of 60 celebrates the ingenuity, resourcefulness… Continue reading

Most Read