Extreme turbulence at the site of the rock slide in the Fraser River near Big Bar is blocking fish passage.

Experts consider best way to free salmon trapped below Fraser slide

Incident command post set up to tackle the fish passage problem from Lillooet

Finding the best way to release salmon trapped by a landslide in the Fraser River near Big Bar is under careful consideration by experts.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and B.C. government officials announced Friday at a technical briefing that they are working together to address impacts of the June 23 slide at a remote and unstable part of the Fraser River.

An “incident command post” was set up at Lillooet with several agencies working in tandem to find the best remediation options.

Options and remediation now being considered:

• Take no action and continue to monitor fish passage;

• Explore options to remove rock obstruction; or

• Physically move the trapped fish upstream.

“Each of these options come with potential benefits and some risk or possible risk of consequence. For this reason, we continue to thoroughly assess each option,” according to the update July 7.

What they believe happened was that a massive slab of rock sheared off and slid into a steep and narrow section of the river, creating a five-metre waterfall and a barrier to fish passage.

Several types of fish are being impacted based on the “magnitude” of the obstruction, including some of conservation concern, officials said. The fish stocks include: Interior Fraser Steelhead (Chilcotin), Spring/Summer Chinook, Interior Fraser Coho, Early Stuart Sockeye, Early Summer Sockeye, Summer Run Sockeye and Fraser Pinks.

Dean Werk, president of the Fraser Valley Salmon Society, said he appreciates the unified approach to the problem that officials are taking by working together, but “decisive action” needs to be taken quickly to help the fish.

“This truly should be considered a state of emergency for this historic wild salmon and sturgeon river,” Werk said. “The early wild salmon population is predicted to have a dire run this season and every salmon needs to reach its natal stream in the first part of the migration.”

The swift-moving water is impeding salmon and other fish from migrating upriver to reach spawning grounds, but they also created hazardous conditions for responding agencies at the site, which is not accessible by road. Field staff were forced to conduct an assessment of the site from the safety of a helicopter over the weekend. They used water dropped from a helicopter bucket to sluice away some of the sediment at the site.

If the decision is made to capture and move the fish away from the blockage, several capture methods could be used. The use of nets and weirs was discussed at the joint briefing on Friday, as well as beach seining. The fish could be transported on a flat-bed truck, to be re-introduced to the watercourse, or transported by other means such as a helicopter.

The Fraser Valley Salmon Society has been at the forefront of conservation of wild salmon and sturgeon for more than 34 years, Werk said.

“Our members and the world are very concerned about what has happened,” he said.

The hope is that as many fish as possible can be released from the obstruction.

“The least impact on wild salmon the better, but if there is a loss of a small amount due to clearing the slide, then we may need to sacrifice these fish, to have the largest portion of the runs of sockeye and chinook reach the spawning areas safely,” Werk said.

There is a chance of about 7.9 million mid-summer sockeye due to return, he estimated, judging from the outgoing fry potential from four years prior.

“We are hopeful this will be resolved so that all user groups can have opportunities for the future,” Werk added.

Some fish are getting through, like the larger chinook, but it’s a relatively small number in the context of the total number of fish trying to pass.

“What has happened up near Big Bar obviously is of great concern to all of us, to all British Columbians,” said Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, at a separate salmon restoration funding announcement on Friday alongside provincial officials.

“We are working on it expeditiously because of the fish there waiting to pass,” Wilkinson said.

The minister acknowledged the barrier is a threat for First Nations who rely on the salmon for their food and ceremonial purposes but it’s also a threat for the commercial and recreational fisheries.

“The Fraser as you know is the most important salmon-bearing river in B.C.”

He said they were looking at “all options” to dislodge the obstruction.

READ MORE: Slide blocked fish

READ MORE: Fraser unsafe but fish could be moved

 

Geotechnical engineers and other experts have been assessing the slide site on the Fraser River north of Big Bar. (Submitted)

Just Posted

Helping with Christmas bird count is ‘citizen science’

Port Alberni’s bird count will be Dec. 28, 2019; volunteers are needed

BUDGET 2020: Port Alberni Fire Department needs new equipment

Police services ask for funding for community policing office

Child care sector feels the squeeze in Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District

There are five children for every licensed child care space in the ACRD

Alberni Valley Community Forest manager hosts open house

More trails registered in community forest

EDITORIAL: We all have a say in Port Alberni’s annual budget

The City of Port Alberni released its proposed five-year financial plan for 2020-2024…

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

B.C. Transit finds 28 used fareboxes online, saves $300,000

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Economy lost 71,200 jobs in November, unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Jobless rate is at its highest since August 2018, when it hit 6%

Most Read