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

Just Posted

Kootenay-Columbia riding candidates have Canada’s highest expense limit

Facebook data also shows who is buying ads on the social media website

Celgar says equipment failure won’t affect production next week

The chip dumper collapse on Oct. 6 is still under investigation

Nelson musical explores chess, women’s emancipation, a love triangle and the Cold War

Chess: The Musical run Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Capitol Theatre

Former Liberal candidate endorses Greens in Kootenay-Columbia

Don Johnston says he’ll be voting for Abra Brynne on Oct. 21

VIDEO: B.C. man’s yard comes alive with grizzlies at night

Malakwa man has captured images of 12 different grizzlies on video

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

ICBC willing to loosen grip on driver claim data, David Eby says

Private insurers say claims record monopoly keeps them out

B.C. principal suspended for failing to help student who reported inappropriate touching

Principal didn’t remove student from the teacher’s class nor call the parents within a reasonable time

Port Moody mayor goes back on unpaid leave during sex assault investigation

Rob Vagramov said he intends to return as mayor in three or four weeks

UBC issues statement after instructor tells students to vote for Liberal Party

University says partisan messaging was not intentional

Feud with Canada Post causes Grasmere Post Office to close its doors

Grasmere Post Office will close Oct. 31, building owners unable to reach agreement with Canada Post

Cowichan Valley brothers win big in lottery for second time

Playing same numbers net big wins over a three year period

Most Read