Salmon getting through Fraser River slide zone as officials ponder permanent fix

VANCOUVER — Officials say thousands of migrating salmon are making their way past an area of British Columbia's Fraser River where a waterway was restructured following a massive rock slide more than two years ago.

Gwil Roberts, the Fisheries Department's director for the Big Bar landslide response, says 79,000 sockeye and chinook salmon have been counted passing through the site and sonar systems are not detecting delays of migrating salmon.

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He says the design of a less treacherous route through the slide zone and low river levels this summer are helping salmon get to their upstream spawning grounds, but finding a permanent solution for the fish to navigate the area is now on hold.

The survival of valuable Fraser River salmon runs was threatened when a slide of more than 85,000 cubic metres of rock ended up in the river and created a five-metre waterfall that trapped the fish below.

Roberts says this year's completion of a protected fishway at the slide site is allowing salmon to make it upstream on their own after earlier efforts to truck them past the area or propel them in a tube with a so-called fish cannon.

He says plans to install a permanent fishway at the slide site by next May have been delayed due to safety and weather issues, while the provincial government as well as local Indigenous groups consider a long-term solution.

"We have passage this year," Roberts told a news conference. "That's a tremendously good sign."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

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