July 20, 2019 6:59 pm

B.C., federal government working to save Fraser River salmon stocks after rock slide

A rock slide on the Fraser River near Big Bar, B.C., has created a five-metre waterfall that is blocking the passage of salmon. The co-ordinated effort to save hundreds of thousands of salmon hampered by a rockslide in British Columbia's Fraser River is about to get even more technical. Leri Davies, the information officer with the Big Bar landslide integrated incident command, says crews have almost finished clearing rocks and debris from a cliff face that sheared off last month, dumping tons of debris into the river.

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The federal and British Columbia governments have made a joint commitment to do everything possible to make sure chinook, steelhead, coho and sockeye are able to reach their spawning grounds past a rock slide in the Fraser River.

The province says in a news release that Premier John Horgan briefed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the slide that threatens to block millions of returning salmon.

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B.C. Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson says the team has developed a multi-pronged plan to save the salmon, some of which are already listed as species of concern.

READ MORE: ‘All options open’: Ministers tour Fraser River rockslide that could impact migrating salmon

The massive rock slide northwest of Kamloops narrowed the river and created a five-metre waterfall, holding back many fish that are swimming against the fast-flowing river in an effort to get back to spawn.

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the governments, along with First Nations communities, are working around the clock to do everything possible to see the fish pass safety through the site.

WATCH: (Aired July 9) Fisheries minister updates salmon situation at Fraser River rockslide

He says collaborative efforts that also involve Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the coast guard are crucial to give the salmon stocks the best chance of survival.

The province says challenges facing any remediation work include rapid flow conditions, accessibility to the remote site, unstable water levels and heavy river debris and silt.

The Fisheries Department says the overall team is constructing a temporary aluminum fishway, testing options for transporting the fish by helicopter and truck and assessing the feasibility of new fish transport systems.

READ MORE: DFO says helping salmon migrate upstream past Fraser River slide a key concern

“As a result of these parallel planning efforts, the team will be able to escalate their response to changing conditions as they get better information on how successfully the salmon are passing the slide site.”

Work to drop massive boulders into the water directly under a cliff was to begin this week, with the hope the boulders will form a series of pools that fish can use as resting places while hopscotching their way up the side of the waterfall.

The bucketing and boulder placement are just two of the proposals developed by the biologists, hydrologists, geotechnicians and others who have been working to save the fish.

WATCH: (Aired July 10) Seymour River restoration could be example for Fraser River slide

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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