LILLOOET, B.C. — About 56,000 fish have made it upstream of a disastrous landslide in British Columbia’s Fraser River as crews work to clear the debris and find other ways to transport salmon to their spawning grounds.
The slide near Big Bar in B.C.’s Interior was found in late June and federal, provincial and First Nations officials have been working to reduce the harm to the area’s significant salmon run at a shared cost of $6 million so far.
Michael Crowe of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says 12,000 salmon have swum through channels created by the crews, while 44,000 have been transported by helicopter.
Crowe, who is the environmental unit leader for the response team, says the majority of the salmon moved by air are sockeye, while the remainder are chinook and only a handful are pink and coho.
He says water turbidity and fish movement make it difficult to estimate how many salmon are trapped beneath the slide, but government officials have previously said millions typically arrive this time of year.
Crowe adds the work to clear rock is dynamic and crews are also installing a fish ladder.
They are looking at possibly moving salmon by truck after improving what was a “very rough road” in the remote area northwest of Kamloops.
“Nothing is off the table unless it’s determined as not being feasible. We are looking at any and all options,” he told a media conference call Wednesday.
Crews are radio-tagging fish regularly and so far 276 sockeye, 162 chinook and five pink salmon have been tagged. While 17 radio-tagged chinook have made it through the slide on their own, no tagged sockeye have passed through, Crowe says.
He says creating channels is challenging because moving one rock could trigger others to tumble and settle in an unexpected place.
The narrowness of the river, the intensity of the water flowing over the slide and weather conditions have all affected operations, says Kevin Skrepnek, the lead for a joint information centre in Lillooet.
Nearly 180 personnel are working “tirelessly,” assisted by four helicopters, numerous boats, dozens of ground vehicles and heavy equipment, he says.