Radio-tagging salmon was underway by the environmental team at the site. (Courtesy of Incident Command Post photo)

Radio-tagging salmon was underway by the environmental team at the site. (Courtesy of Incident Command Post photo)

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

There’s a multi-pronged plan in place to save as many trapped salmon as possible from a landslide site on the Fraser River near Big Bar.

After weeks of considering options, the latest effort is to transport the fish by helicopter over the slide obstruction.

Federal Fisheries and Oceans and provincial government experts have been working to hammer out solutions with a First Nations panel and the Canadian Coast Guard, all co-ordinated by an Incident Command Post management team based out of Lillooet, posting almost daily updates.

But the idea of physically moving the fish is just one of many ways they’re going at the problem.

“We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket,” Ken Malloway said. As co-chair of the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, he’s been taking part in conference calls on the advisory panel, also representing the Fraser River Aboriginal Fisheries Secretariat. “The estimate of 80,000 fish to be flown over by helicopter may not seem like much when you consider a total of 3.7 million sockeye expected to return, but the idea is to help as many as possible to get by.”

They are also looking closely at a hatchery option that would see eggs extracted in an effort to bolster some runs.

READ MORE: Putting heads together on trapped fish

In terms of some runs of salmon and other fish, it couldn’t be happening at a worse time of year as they attempt to migrate back to their natal streams.

“At least we know the larger chinook are at least getting by, and we hope some of the Chilko sockeye, which are larger and stronger than others, can make it as well,” Malloway said.

Big boulders are being dropped from a high cliff to create calm pools for the fish they attempt to scale the mammoth waterfall churning at the site of the blockage.

READ MORE: FNs calling it ‘extreme crisis’

They don’t know how many fish are pooling behind the obstruction. It could be tens of thousand chinook and millions of sockeye ultimately, but coho salmon are also coming into the river system shortly.

The members of the Environmental Team are also beach seining and tagging fish above and below the site, to get a better idea of how many are getting past.

The swift-moving water is blocking most of the arriving fish from migrating any further upstream, but it has also been creating hazardous conditions for responding agencies at the remote site, which is not accessible by road.

They’ve been conducting controlled blasting in the area as rockscalers remove dangerous rocks on the face of the landslide to make it safer for workers.

Efforts are being focused on preparing for the helicopter transfer of fish, according to the incident command post release because thousands of chinook, and millions of sockeye could be impacted.

“An off-channel holding pond is being constructed to assist in the process of transferring fish to a safe area upstream of the slide location,” according to the ICP release.

“Once constructed, the fish will swim into the created channel, through a fish weir and into the holding pond dug into the sand bar.”

From there, the fish will be transferred with nets into aluminum tanks. The tanks will be attached to tether lines for the helicopters to take them beyond the slide.

“This operation is intended to safely transfer the salmon beyond the partial blockage as quickly as possible. The holding tank is equipped with an oxygen diffuser in order to reduce stress on the fish while in transport.”

Ongoing challenges includes the high canyon walls, churning water, the waterfall, the remote site, unstable water levels, heavy debris and silt.

READ MORE: Emergency size limits placed on marine chinook

Dean Werk, president of the Fraser Valley Salmon Society, said he and the FVSS members have been awaiting word on the next steps, after likening the situation to an “emergency.”

“We are very happy to see that a decision was made to benefit our migrating wild salmon in this critical time on their journey home to their rivers of origin,” said Werk. “It is great to see the federal government, provincial agencies, First Nations, commercial and recreational all collaborating in the process.”

More collaboration like this is needed when tackling tough challenges like this one.

“We are all very concerned about the future of wild salmon and we think this is another step in the right direction to ensure that there are fish for all sectors for many years to come,” Werk added.

What they believe happened last fall was that a slab of rock sheared off the cliff and slid into a steep and narrow section of the river, creating a five-metre waterfall and the massive 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: spring/summer chinook, early Stuart sockeye, early summer sockeye, summer run sockeye and Fraser pinks.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Construction of an off-channel holding pond for fish that will be flown over the slide. (Courtesy of Incident Command Post photo)

Construction of an off-channel holding pond for fish that will be flown over the slide. (Courtesy of Incident Command Post photo)

An aerial of the blocked site on the Fraser River at Big Bar. (Courtesy of Incident Command Post photo)

An aerial of the blocked site on the Fraser River at Big Bar. (Courtesy of Incident Command Post photo)

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

The Princeton Food Bank will eventually be located on First Street in the former United Church 
building. (Spotlight photo)
Princeton’s food bank to get new downtown home

Baptist church acquires former United church building

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

(Glenmore Neighbours/Facebook)
VIDEO: Parade of ducklings stalls Glenmore traffic

Duck and ducklings trek across Glenmore, guided to pond by residents

Vernon’s Tanya Wick, human resources VP at Tolko Industries Ltd., has been named the 2021 HR Professional of the Year by the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. (CPHR BC & Yukon photo)
Okanagan resident gets top provincial award for HR excellence

Tolko’s Tanya Wick has earned the title of 2021 HR Professional of the Year

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

What3words was first created in the U.K. in 2013 and is credited to saving the lives of outdoor enthusiasts around the world. (Contributed)
‘This is a life saving tool’: App helps paramedics find capsized canoeists near Revelstoke

What3words pinpoints the person’s phone location to a three-meter range

The City of Vernon is taking a close look at six high-priority Okanagan Lake access points, including three sites along Tronson Road (pictured above) in May 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon council looking closely at Okanagan Lake access points

Six access points have been identified as ideal for recreation

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Police working to identify the two bodies found in South Okanagan

The area will see higher police presence ahead of a forensic examination

Most Read