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

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead on Quadra Island

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

The Downtown Safety Select Committee has floated the idea of removing the glass on the Spirit Square stage structure in the winter. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Proposed Spirit Square glass removal disables sheltered gathering place, homeless advocates say

Downtown Safety Select Committee floats idea of removing glass roof from public facility

John Hart Dam near Campbell River, B.C. BC Hydro photo
John Hart Dam project will move massive amounts of earthfill

The John Hart Dam seismic upgrade will truck more than twice as… Continue reading

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Stigma can be the hardest hurdle to get over for people recovering from addiction

Connection and community key for building back after drug addiction

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read