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.

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

 

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)

Just Posted

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
A 1900s writing box found in Greater Victoria contained ink, photos and a letter addressed to Clara McCaubry dated October 14, 1898. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)
Mysterious 1900s writing box finds a home among Saanich Archives

Wooden chest owned by early Saanich resident Clara Isabelle McCaubry

(Black Press Media file photo)
Spooky online class cooks up funds for Greater Victoria Imagination Library

United Way Greater Victoria offers how-to for witch cookies, tasty coffin as fundraiser

Murray Rankin has announced he will seek the nomination for the Oak Bay Gordon Head riding in the 2021 provincial election (which could happen in the fall of 2020). The former Minister of Parliament for the Victoria riding from 2012 to 2019.
(MurrayRankin.com)
New Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Murray Rankin says he will use his federal connections

Rankin said being part of NDP majority government gives him a strong voice

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read