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 body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Caden Tart and Luke Geisbrecht host Scratch the Scripture. Photo: Submitted
Two Castlegar teens launch faith podcast

Scratch the Scripture aims to answer teen’s questions about God

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

Cliffe Churches helped create the Robson Fire Department. Photo: Submitted
Robson Fire Department honours Cliffe Churches

Cliffe Churches helped create the Robson Fire Department

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read