Ottawa/Big Bar/Lillooet – About a year ago, a huge slide blocked the Fraser River at ‘Big Bar’. A huge local, provincial and federal effort cleared up some of the debris and DFO started lifting salmon over the obstruction.
Part of the process was a water cannon called Whooshh.
On Wednesday, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard (DFO), announced the contract award of $176.3 million to Peter Kiewit Sons ULC Burnaby B.C. (Kiewit) to design and construct a permanent fishway at the Big Bar landslide site. With work on the new fishway to begin in the winter of 2020, it is expected to be operational by the start of the 2022 Fraser salmon migration.
The record breaking high water levels of the Fraser River in 2020, coupled with the barrier posed by the landslide, impacted the migration of already struggling early season salmon. An analysis concluded in July 2020, determined that a fishway is the only long-term solution which can provide reliable fish passage at Big Bar. The new permanent fishway will support the long-term survival of at-risk fish populations.
The permanent idea was first hinted at in late September.
Extensive progress was made through the winter of 2019 and into 2020, despite the challenges posed by the remote work site, extreme weather conditions, natural hazards, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Kiewit successfully built access to the work site, cleared significant amounts of debris, blasted boulders, widened the river channel and constructed the “nature-like” fishway. This work was instrumental in improving the migration conditions through the canyon, allowing fish to move upstream at flow levels they were unable to navigate in 2019 and extending the period of in-river migration during high flows in 2020. Alternative fish passage systems supported fish movement until the mid-summer reduction in water flows allowed salmon to migrate past the slide site without