Capturing fish at the Big Bar landslide site is underway with seining, nets and weirs. About 200 Early Stuart sockeye will be transported in holding tanks down to the Cultus Lake Salmon Lab in Chilliwack for an enhancement pilot program. (Courtesy of Incident Command Post)

Big Bar slide a big engineering challenge for crews trying to move fish

Expert says a slide hasn’t been this hard to solve since one in 1914 when CP Railway was being built

Experts say crews working to create a passage for migrating salmon following a rock slide on the Fraser River are dealing with some of the most difficult engineering challenges since a similar incident in the province over a century ago.

Corino Salomi, the environmental lead on the project involving provincial, federal and First Nations officials, says a slide in the Hell’s Gate area of the river during construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1914 posed similar problems to the one discovered in June near Big Bar.

He says engineers have reached out to the United States Army Corps of Engineers for advice and the army confirmed the team is “doing the right thing” in dealing with a slide that is much larger than others.

However, he says the scale of the slide that is believed to have occurred last fall requires difficult technical work in a remote location where crews must use ropes to rappel more than 100 metres down to the water’s edge.

Salomi says crews have moved and blasted rocks and created channels for fish to pass through but water levels are expected to drop and it’s too early to determine the overall impact on salmon stocks.

He says the Fraser River is being squeezed through a relatively narrow corridor of about 75 metres but efforts involving federal, provincial and First Nations partners have allowed about 100,000 salmon to pass through naturally so far.

“Some portion of 1.5 million (pink salmon) may arrive to the slide but we don’t know what that number will be and will continue to monitor that,” he says of the smaller species.

“We did have concerns that although the rock manipulation allowed sockeye and chinook to pass it wasn’t certain that pinks would be able to pass. So, two days ago we applied tags and we are now seeing those tagged fish moving through.”

Salomi says about 50 per cent of the tagged pinks made it through on their own.

READ MORE: Many salmon now passing Fraser River slide on their own, DFO says

The management team working at the Big Bar landslide says 60,000 sockeye, chinook and pink salmon have been transported by helicopter.

Principal engineer Barry Chilibeck, an expert on fish passage and hydrology, says the Fraser River is a significant migratory route for five species of salmon, including coho and steelhead, which are expected to arrive soon.

“In terms of a river and fish passage and importance to Canadians and communities, there’s nothing bigger than the Fraser,” he says.

Smaller, weaker pink salmon are expected to be transferred by helicopter and trucks if they are unable to swim past the slide on their own.

The Canadian Press

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

Just Posted

Eagles Boxers at BC Championships

Pictured above: Eagles Boxers are back from the BC Provincial Championships in… Continue reading

It happened this week in 1913

February 16 - 22: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Key City Theatre establishes new endowment fund

The Key City Theatre Legacy Fund was made possible thanks to an anonymous donation

Victoria’s Carmanah performs for Fisher Peak concert series

The Fisher Peak Winter Ale Concert Series presented an intimate night of… Continue reading

City approves amendments for proposed Innes Ave housing development

Local residents brought concerns to council during public hearing before the council vote

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Petition slams Victoria councillor who chastised police after Wetsuweten protest

Ben Isitt calls effort to get him suspended is not a ‘reliable barometer of public opinion’

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Suspect at large after stealing seaplane before crashing into another in Vancouver

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday at Vancouver Harbour

PHOTOS: 2020 BC Winter Games kick off in Fort St. John

More than 1,000 of B.C.’s best athletes will be competing over the next three days

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

Shopping cart collector at B.C. Costco awarded $583,000 after getting pinned by car

Kurtis Ryan Burdeniuk, 22, was retrieving carts when a driver backed into him in the parking lot

‘Usain Bolt he was not’: B.C. gang police seize drugs, cash after foot chase

‘The man took off running when he saw our officers approaching,’ CFSEU BC says

Most Read