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

Motorists were ‘driving like their own Indy 500’ before fatal Abbotsford crash, court hears

Family member declares defence request for 90-day jail sentence a ‘joke’

World champion SFU Pipe Band comes to Chilliwack

SFU Pipe Band will put on a celebration of culture, music and heritage at Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Surge in Fraser Health home-care complaints concerns seniors advocate

Number of people complaining about home care has risen substantially over the last four years

Snowfall warning in effect for the Coquihalla Highway

An unstable airmass is producing heavy flurries over parts of the southern highway passes

KAAC won’t back Kent’s Teacup properties plans

Public consultation meeting is on March 10 at District Hall

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

VIDEO: Protesters block tracks in Maple Ridge

West Coast Express train service has been suspended, buses arranged for commuters

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

Man pleads guilty to stabbing woman, off-duty cop outside North Delta elementary school

The suspect, whose name is under a publication ban, faced 10 charges in relation to this incident

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Royals, Elvis, Captain Cook: Hundreds of wax figures find new life in B.C. man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Most Read