Crews affix radio tags to salmon at the Big Bar landslide site 100km north of Lillooet this summer. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has approved the construction of a permanent fishway at the site. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada photo)

Crews affix radio tags to salmon at the Big Bar landslide site 100km north of Lillooet this summer. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has approved the construction of a permanent fishway at the site. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada photo)

Permanent fishway approved for Big Bar landslide site

$176-million project will be completed by spring of 2022

Work will begin this winter on a $176-million permanent fishway at the site of the Big Bar landslide, ensuring salmon and steelhead populations will continue to reach their spawning grounds in the upper Fraser River.

Completion of the design and construction work is expected for the start of the 2022 Fraser River salmon migration when river levels are high and fish are least likely to make it past the site on their own.

In a statement today (Dec. 9) Bernadette Jordan, minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said the fish passage is the latest achievement of an “all hands-on deck” effort to overcome tremendous challenges at the site.

“We are thrilled that construction will soon begin on a permanent fishway. This is a long-term, sustainable solution that will not only protect, but help revive, our wild salmon populations in the Fraser River to their former abundance.”

The 2018 landslide dropped 110,000 cubic metres of rock into the river north of Lillooet, blocking critical passage for spawning salmonids. Ongoing recovery efforts include blasting and debris removal, radio tagging and the Whooshh portal — the so-called salmon canon, which uses pressurized water and tubes to ferry fish past the slide site.

The fishway was the favoured solution over continued blasting and dredging that officials previously said contained too many environmental and engineering uncertainties.

Work on the fishway will begin immediately to take advantage of low river levels in winter.

In a virtual press conference today, Gwill Roberts, director of the Big Bar landslide response for DFO said construction will be challenged by extreme weather and narrow, windy gravel roads in the area.

“Particular problems on the river floor are also there,” he said. “We need a consistent elevation change from the entrance and exit of this fishway, but we find on the north end we start to lose ground, which makes installation that much more challenging.”

The fishway will also need to be large enough to handle high volumes of fish, but not so large it blocks waterflow.

READ MORE: Salmon arrive in larger numbers at Big Bar landslide

The design and construction contract was awarded to Peter Kiewit Sons, who previously received a $17.6-million contract for remediation and road-building work. That contract was later amended to $70 million for additional work to support fish passage, which included widening the river channel and constructing a temporary fishway.

The government said the company’s involvement was instrumental to improving unprecedented migration conditions through the canyon in both 2019 and during this year’s 100- to 120-year flooding event that on some days exceeded levels ever recorded on the Fraser.

“This year was very difficult for the fish,” Roberts said. “We had a slowdown in the migration of salmon. They were delayed and their [energy] reserves were depleted.

“[The floods] also affected our operations … they worked, but they were constrained and constricted due to the high water. But the important part to highlight there is the work completed by Kiewit earlier in the year was successful in reducing flows and allowing a lot of the salmon to move by naturally.”

B.C.’s new parliamentary secretary for fisheries and aquaculture, Fin Donnelly, said the B.C. government is dedicated to a permanent solution at Big Bar and will work with federal and First Nations partners to ensure the fishway’s success.

“All three levels of government have been collaborating to restore this site and the permanent fishway will be a significant addition to this ongoing work,” he said.

The Whooshh portal and manual transport operations will remain active during the fishway’s construction.

DFO said they will also continue emergency conservation enhancement efforts for at-risk upper Fraser salmon stocks, in collaboration with Indigenous groups, academics and other experts. Last year those efforts led to the hatchery release of 20,000 early Stuart sockeye fry. Next year DFO expects to release 120,000 more, in addition to 12,000 Bowron sockeye and 68,000 juvenile chinook.

To date this year more than 161,000 salmon migrated on their own past the Big Bar landslide site. Approximately 8,200 fish were moved by the Whooshh system and 1,500 by truck and transport.

Prior to the landslide many of the stocks were already in critical condition, and being considered for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SAR). Michael Crow, DFO’s manager of biological programs for the Big Bar landslide response said an impediment to fish health and habitat like the slide will factor into future assessments for SAR listing and other endangered species initiatives.

READ MORE: Time for Indigenous-led salmon strategy on the Lower Fraser, says Alliance



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Fisheries and Oceans CanadaSalmon

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

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP Constable Mike Della-Paolera as seen in a cut-out used for the detachment’s Operation Double Take program. (File photo)
Surrey’s tall ‘Operation Double Take’ cop is on the move

Cut-out of Constable Mike Della-Paolera used in program to curb speeding and dangerous driving

In 2017, a member of the Disneyana Fan Club curated a small Community Treasures exhibit at the Museum of Surrey about the early days of Disney and the cartoonist Walt Disney. The museum is now accepting applications for its 2022 Community Treasures exhibition. (Photo: Submitted)
Museum of Surrey wants to spotlight local organizations and clubs

Museum now accepting applications for its 2022 Community Treasures exhibit

Musician Dana Vande is seen in a screenshot from a music video on Youtube. Vande recently released a pro-lockdown track in response to an Eric Clapton and Van Morrison anti-lockdown track.
Cloverdale musician writes pandemic response song to Van Morrison and Eric Clapton

Dana Vande answers a Clapton-Morrison anti-lockdown track with a pro-lockdown track

Family and friends of Hudson Brooks marched as part of a call for answers from an IIO investigation into his 2015 death. (Black Press Media files)
Inquest to look into RCMP shooting death of Hudson Brooks

Charges agains the RCMP officer who shot Brooks were stayed in 2019

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Delta Police dog retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Most Read