Feds put out call for help in bid to save sal­mon


Ottawa Citizen - - Canada - AMY SMART

Ot­tawa is seek­ing help to avoid what it says could be the ex­tinc­tion of some Bri­tish Columbian sal­mon species be­cause of a mas­sive land­slide on the Fraser River that sparked a co-or­di­nated emer­gency re­sponse this year.

Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada, on be­half of the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans, is­sued a re­quest for in­for­ma­tion this week seek­ing in­put from the pri­vate sec­tor and other ex­perts to re-es­tab­lish nat­u­ral fish pas­sage at the site of the slide.

The Big Bar land­slide north of Lil­looet, B.C., was dis­cov­ered in June and ini­tial es­ti­mates show 75,000 cu­bic me­tres of ma­te­rial was de­posited in the river.

The gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments say the re­quest will only be open un­til Dec. 6, given the “ur­gency” of the sit­u­a­tion, and Ot­tawa is pre­pared to spend be­tween $10 mil­lion and $30 mil­lion on the pro­ject.

It’s seek­ing con­struc­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion work to sup­port the breakup and re­moval of rock from the site of the slide dur­ing the first avail­able lowwa­ter win­dow be­tween December and March.

The doc­u­ments say the ex­tinc­tion of up­per Fraser sal­mon species could re­sult in eco­nomic losses through­out Bri­tish Columbia and pose risks to the food se­cu­rity and cul­ture of many Indigenous com­mu­ni­ties along the river.

The slide oc­curred in the tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory of the High Bar and Stswe­cem’c Xgat’tem First Na­tions but the gov­ern­ment says an ad­di­tional 140 First Na­tions may feel the ef­fects.

“Without im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion, many sal­mon stocks na­tive to the up­per Fraser River (a large geo­graphic re­gion of BC) may be­come ex­tinct,” the doc­u­ment says.

The Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans says in a state­ment that it’s still crunch­ing num­bers around the fish mi­gra­tion, spawn­ing and mor­tal­ity data due to the slide.

It could take years of work to re­duce the im­pact of the slide on sal­mon stocks, it says.

Fol­low­ing the slide, the fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and lo­cal gov­ern­ments worked with lo­cal First Na­tions through a joint com­mand cen­tre to move the fish be­yond the bar­rier, in­clud­ing trans­port­ing thou­sands of fish to­ward spawn­ing grounds by he­li­copter.

While some of the slide ma­te­rial has eroded or moved down­stream by freshet flows, the largest slide frag­ments re­main in the area “crit­i­cal” to fish pas­sage, the re­quest for in­for­ma­tion says.

Work on the pro­ject de­pends on low wa­ter lev­els and the work must be com­plete be­fore lev­els rise, which his­tor­i­cally hap­pens around March 15, it says.

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