Salmon using tube system to bypass Fraser River landslide

Salmon using tube system

Larger numbers of salmon are arriving at the Big Bar landslide site on the Fraser River, where a ‘salmon cannon’ and team of trucks are working to ensure the fish reach their spawning grounds. 

The B.C. Government says, as of Aug. 5, a little over 3,500 salmon have been detected at the Churn Creek sonar station about 40 kilometres upstream from the slide site. 

“The increasing numbers of salmon detected at Churn is a positive indicator of successful migration past the barrier,” an update said Friday.

The slide, north of Lillooet, B.C., was discovered in June 2019 with estimates showing 75,000 cubic metres of material deposited in the river. It devastated last fall’s already weak salmon return.

The government says a newly installed “Whooshh system” is now in operation, pumping fish up past the slide in a tube and ladder system.

“New filters were installed to reduce sediment in the water supply before it reaches the fine spray misters and other sensitive components. Crews also added mesh and netting to better guide fish movement within the concrete ladder and the steep pass ramp to reduce incidental harm,” Friday’s update said, adding crews have also been working to improve vehicle and equipment access. 

A sonar station downstream of the slide has been observing sockeye in the “low thousands” daily. Crews are also tagging both sockeye and chinook salon to better understand their movement above the slide site. 

On August 2, 133 sockeye were transferred from the French Bar Creek holding facility to the Cultus Lake Research Lab. The previous week, 105 sockeye were transferred to the lab. The majority of the fish are likely Early Stuart sockeye but DNA tests will confirm. The program target is to collect 400 Early Stuart sockeye. Following DNA testing, 70 chinook have now been transferred to the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre in Vanderhoof. Fish from eight separate chinook populations in the upper Fraser River are being collected for the hatchery. 

To date, 3,315 salmon have been counted moving through the ‘salmon cannon,’ with another 114 moved via truck.

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