Seining fish near the Big Bar landslide site in order to place them in the holding pond before transport. (Courtesy of Incident Command Post)

VIDEO: Trapped fish fiasco at Fraser slide site sees visit from B.C. premier

Turbulent waters at slide site making it harder for trapped fish and rescuers

The Big Bar landslide site was visited by Premier John Horgan Wednesday where experts are still working against the clock to get trapped salmon past the obstruction on the Fraser River.

“The rock scalers, scientists, First Nations and many others who are working tirelessly to help Fraser salmon over the Big Bar slide are doing an extraordinary job,” said Premier Horgan.

“But it will be at least a week before they’ll know if they’ve been successful.”

The scale of the collaborative efforts by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with Province of B.C., First Nations and fish biologists and other experts is “unprecedented,” Horgan noted.

About 80 personnel are assigned to the incident on any given day.

The landslide dropped a massive chunk of rock into the river last fall which is now blocking fish passage, and the slide was only discovered by officials in June.

Since then officials have been striving to stabilize the site, restore an open passage for migrating fish, and ensure they can move freely upstream to their spawning grounds.

Some methods to free the fish have been tested and rejected for technical reasons. Others are still under consideration.

A fish wheel from Rivers Inlet, using baskets and the power of the moving water, will be installed shortly to test its fish-lifting ability.

The use of helicopters carrying oxygenated fish-holding tanks is being tested to transfer a small number of fish above the slide.

“This system may assist with transporting small numbers of fish from early runs above the slide site, but is not a practical way of moving large numbers of fish,” according to the update from the Incident Command Post.

The idea of trucking salmon past the slide area is also being evaluated, and they’re also looking at

carefully dropping large rocks into the river to recreate a natural fish ladder.

“Aluminum fish ladders are being constructed and will be on-site within the next two weeks, ready to be deployed in the river by a helicopter when river conditions are suitable, to assist with fish passage.”

Scaling crews are slogging away on the face of the landslide to prepare a safe work area for rock work below. Helicopters are assisting with sluicing, which sees choppers dropping water from buckets to remove loose rock.

On Tuesday, Canadian Coast Guard personnel and river specialists were downstream of the slide, to assess water flow and conditions.

“Water conditions were found to be extremely hazardous due to the erratic and fast moving current.”

Updates can be found here on the incident website

READ MORE: Multifaceted plan to free the fish

READ MORE: Experts called to help


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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