First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

First Nations leaders from across B.C. are calling for immediate action on the Fraser River to remove the blockage at the Big Bar landslide site within 60 days to allow fish passage.

A “state of emergency” needs to be declared on the Fraser River, said Regional Chief Terry Teegee of First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), urging the federal government to “urgently prioritize resources” to tackle the crisis.

Remediation work for remote slide site being planned now by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and partners, may not be completed in time to save some salmon runs from extinction, some are warning.

“To this day, B.C. First Nations have maintained a sacred relationship with the salmon that migrate through their territories and beyond,” Chief Teegee said. “Extreme efforts and resources must be put forth immediately to preserve cultures and ways of life that have existed for thousands of years.”

READ MORE: Helicopter transfer tried to move fish upstream

DFO issued a request for information (RFI) on Nov. 27 to seek the contractors with expertise in construction and environmental mediation needed “to re-establish natural fish passage” by removing the blockage.

“The intention is to ensure that construction activities begin as soon as possible, and while water levels in the Fraser River are low,” according to DFO in an update on Dec. 2.

READ MORE: Sockeye were stymied in a bad year

But the future impacts on Early Stuart and chinook from Big Bar blockage in particular constitute an emergency in the making right now, according to Sto:lo Tribal Council Grand Chief Ken Malloway, a Sto:lo fisherman, and member of the First Nations advisory panel on the Big Bar slide.

“The thing we’re concerned about, at this time of year with the water dropping, is there is still some very large rock that needs to be removed,” said Malloway. “They need to be in there now blasting and removing rock.”

Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chair of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government, said the salmon stocks need “all the help” they can get.

“Right now there are low water levels on the Fraser. So if anything substantial is to happen it has to happen by the month of January,” Chief Alphonse said, not February or March. “There is only a small window of opportunity. They have to get on it.”

Last summer the Tŝilhqot’in were expecting to see a return of a million fish from the Chilko Lake run, the “healthiest, strongest run” of sockeye on the Fraser, he said. But only about 170,000 sockeye returned.

READ MORE: Removing rock from the river is the goal

Responding to early slide reports in July 2019, an unprecedented government-to-government-to-government protocol was put in place, led by the Incident Command Post management team based in Kamloops. Unified team efforts brought together provincial, DFO, and First Nations, who all worked toward freeing the fish trapped behind the slide. Current Big Bar landslide updates can be found here .


@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

 

A photo of workers scaling the cliffs above the Big Bar Slide on the Fraser River. (Trevor Mack photo)

Just Posted

Deborah Saucier, Vancouver Island University president and vice-chancellor, was among the panelists in the Future of Post-Secondary Education discussion at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Oct. 28. (VIEA YouTube screenshot)
Island’s universities challenged to ‘build community’ amid remote learning

VIU, UVic and Royal Roads University admin discuss COVID-19 impact at economic summit

John Albert Buchanan, accused in the September 2017 murder of Richard Sitar in Nanaimo, is currently standing trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Man accused in Nanaimo beating death told police he didn’t hurt victim

Arresting officer takes the stand in John Albert Buchanan’s second-degree murder trial

MNP senior economist Susan Mowbray presents the State of the Island Economic Report on Thursday night to conclude the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s virtual summit. (VIEA image)
Not-so-rosy State of the Island report caps off virtual summit

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s summit took place online Oct. 27-29

Canadian Federation of University Women Nanaimo members Wendy Smiley, left, Karen Skarpnes, storyteller Margaret Murphy, CFUW-Nanaimo president Jeri Manley and club treasurer Kathy Torhjelm gather in recognition of the club’s 75th anniversary. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo chapter of Canadian Federation of University Women celebrates 75th anniversary

Group gathered via Zoom earlier this month to recall its history in the area

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Most Read