Researchers in B.C. to map landslides in Fraser River, help protect salmon

Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials and members of the B.C. Wildfire Service move salmon in a temporary holding pen on the Fraser River before being transported with a helicopter past a massive rock slide, near Big Bar, west of Clinton, B.C., on Wednesday July 24, 2019. The rock slide has narrowed the river, creating a five-metre waterfall that is preventing many migrating salmon from getting through to spawning grounds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia geoscientists are returning to the scene of a massive landslide on the Fraser River to map its effects and assess the risk of future slides on salmon.

The landslide in November 2018 created a five-metre waterfall on the river north of Lillooet, and made it nearly impossible for migrating salmon to reach their spawning grounds.

Jeremy Venditti, principal investigator on the project, says his team of scientists will map the topography in the area using a laser to identify between 20 and 100 possible slide sites along the river.

Read more: Work to protect juvenile salmon in Fraser River’s north arm a success: Conservationists

He says his team set up a field site on the same location of the 2018 slide almost a decade before that, so they’ll be able to compare their findings with the 2009 data to see how the slide changed the river and how to better predict these events.

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Venditti says they’ll share the information with the Fisheries Department and First Nations communities, so they can prepare for potential slides and make plans to protect the salmon.

He says possible mitigation could include engineering solutions like building fishways that can help salmon get past blocked passages.

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