The landslide at Big Bar on the Fraser River is obstructing natural fish passage. (Incident Command Post photo)

DFO responds to ‘state of emergency’ call from First Nations

‘Our shared goal is to fully restore the sustainable, natural fish passage at the site’: DFO

The call by First Nations leaders for a state of emergency to be declared on the Fraser River at the Big Bar landslide site was formally acknowledged this week by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The request was for DFO to do whatever it takes to clear the obstruction in the river more quickly to save salmon stocks at risk.

“We respectfully acknowledge the call from the First Nations Leadership Council,” according to DFO spokesperson Michelle Imbeau Dec. 10 in an emailed statement.

READ MORE: FN demand action on Big Bar slide

“The Big Bar Landslide and the work being done to restore fish passage through the slide site was, and continues to be, a top priority for the Government of Canada.”

The remote location on the river, fluctating water levels and dangerous conditions at the site were some of the obstacles this past summer.

“Our shared goal is to fully restore the sustainable, natural fish passage at the site of the Big Bar Landslide,” Imbeau added.

That commitment, made in partnership with the Province of British Columbia and First Nations, to address the risk to B.C. salmon, remains in place, and comes with “a strong awareness” of the impact of the slide and the deep cultural significance of salmon to Indigenous communities.

“This awareness has not changed,” according to DFO.

Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chair of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government, also said the salmon need all the help they can get immediately, and that it constitutes an “emergency” of the highest priority.

“There is only a small window of opportunity. They have to get on it,” Alphonse said. Inaction could lead to “catastrophic failure” of 2020 salmon and steelhead. The crisis affects all First Nations north of the slide site, not just his Tŝilhqot’in community located within 100 to 150 kilometres from the blockage.

The DFO rep indicated that is clearly understood.

“This is undoubtedly a conservation crisis, and we are doing everything possible to address this barrier, and to protect Pacific salmon stocks.”

READ MORE: Clearing the way for fish passage

The unique partnership that was forged at the outset in July 2019, allows a “joint response” by the feds, B.C. and First Nations, as well as they work toward contracting out for the “urgent winter work to clear the remaining barrier on the Fraser.”

The request for information (RFI) went out Nov. 27 “to gather input from industry and First Nations to determine available solutions, as well as interest and capability of the marketplace for the construction and environmental remediation services needed to re-establish natural fish passage on the Fraser River.”

That RFI closed on Friday, December 6, and all procurement options are being considered given the urgency.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

COLUMN: We don’t need an election. But it’s 2020, so we’ll probably get one anyways.

There are only selfish reasons for the NDP to trigger an election this fall

Say ‘Hi’ to the mountains (and rain): The smoke is gone from the Fraser Valley, for now

Saturday’s Fraser Valley air quality forecast at ‘moderate risk,’ but morning showers leave skies clear

Chilliwack Agriculture Tour goes virtual during pandemic

Rather than bus tourists to local farms, tour stops will be posted on Facebook and Instagram

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

VIDEO: gunshot incident at Langley gas station

No immediate reports of injuries in Saturday evening incident

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

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

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Most Read