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)

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 breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin checking drivers on BC highways

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

JANGO the police dog helped track down a suspect on Luckakuck Way in Chilliwack. (RCMP photo)
Alleged thief in Chilliwack can’t fool the nose of JANGO the police dog

An Edmonton man who allegedly broke into a storage container on Luckakuck Way was arrested

Chilliwack RCMP nab two alleged thieves targeting bait vehicle

A man from Port Coquitlam and a woman from Delta were stopped and arrested at Eagle Landing Parkway

The AHL Board of Governors has approved the Vancouver Canucks decision to move their franchise to Abbotsford. (File photo)
AHL approves Canucks’ franchise relocation to Abbotsford

Board of Governors approves move, season set to start on Oct. 15

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Serious crash in Surrey sends 1 to hospital

Surrey RCMP say one of the drivers fled on foot, but was later found at an area hospital

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read