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

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)

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

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic planned for Kelowna

Clinic at Kelowna Secondary School from June 22 to 24 from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

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

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Most Read