Big Bar Landslide Incident

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On June 23, 2019, a landslide in a remote and rugged canyon along the Fraser River, north of Lillooet, was reported to the B.C. government. Over 85,000 cubic metres of rock had sheared off a 125-metre-high cliff and fallen into the river. These huge pieces of rock created a five-metre waterfall, which trapped migrating salmon below the slide.  

Using an Incident Command System (similar to what’s typically used by the BC Wildfire Service to respond to fires), a Unified Command was established to lead the remediation response and included all levels of government (First Nations, provincial and federal). This team included field and support staff from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, the First Nations Fraser River Aboriginal Secretariat and the BC Wildfire Service, as well as scientists, engineers, First Nations fisheries crews and archaeological monitors, biologists, rock scalers, hydrologists and many others.

In September 2019, due to decreasing water levels and the efforts of rock scalers, some migrating salmon were able to pass naturally past the site of the landslide. The Province, the Government of Canada and First Nations have continued to work together to ease fish movement past the site. The effort to re-establish fish passage has included blasting rocks and widening the river channel. The installation of a nature-like fishway, a Whooshh Passage Portal System and other mitigation measures were undertaken to limit disruption to fish during the 2020 migration season. 

To read ongoing updates on the Big Bar landslide response and details about the work that’s being done, please click on the Information Bulletins tab below.

2020

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2019

November

September

August

July

During the summer 2019 response, the Unified Command team collaborated with two talented B.C. artists. Trevor Mack, filmmaker, and Gina Anderson, photographer, captured the spirit and efforts of those who dedicated their time to restore salmon passage. Their multimedia highlights the significance of the Big Bar Landslide and the impact that it continues to have both locally and globally.


Trevor Mack

Trevor Mack is an award-winning Tsilhqot'in nation filmmaker from the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Raised by his mother and family on the Tl'etinqox reserve, his culture and upbringing provided a strong foundation for his unique storytelling expressed through his film work.

Beach operations with Keenan Zimmerman – Big Bar Landslide Fish Transport Operations

 

Rope Access Technicians – Big Bar Landslide Rock Scaling Operations

 

Progress Report with Mike Hawkshaw – Big Bar Landslide, Drone Overview July 26 – September 12

 

Radio Tagging with Chuck Parken – Big Bar Landslide Radio Tagging Operations


Gina Anderson

Gina Anderson began working in the photography field in her 20s, as a custom-darkroom printer for professional photographers. It wasn’t long before she realised: “I can do all of this myself”. Shortly after this she began shooting professionally. In the early 2000s, Gina moved cautiously into the digital photo world. She now travels extensively, shoots extensively and  sells her photography. Her forte remains photographing people, landscapes & scenes in their natural settings, as organically as possible.

FYI: gina_gerl, was initially a pneumonic to help people pronounce her name with the intonations her parents intended; it now represents an arresting, emotive, creative body of photographic work.

Pink salmon is prepped to be tagged.

Pink salmon is prepped to be tagged. Photo by Gina Anderson @gina-gerl imaging.

Crews catch salmon to affix radio tags to track fish movements, behaviour and health.
Crews catch salmon to affix radio tags to track fish movements, behaviour and health. Photo by Gina Anderson @gina-gerl imaging.


Sockeye salmon fitted with a radio tag.
Sockeye salmon fitted with a radio tag. Photo by Gina Anderson @gina-gerl imaging.


Tagging crews check radio tags.
Tagging crews check radio tags. Photo by Gina Anderson @gina-gerl imaging.


Rock scaler work site at the top of the cliff face on the west canyon wall of the Fraser River, above the slide site.
Rock scaler work site at the top of the cliff face on the west canyon wall of the Fraser River, above the slide site. Photo by Gina Anderson @gina-gerl imaging.


A rock scaler begins his 125-metre rappel from the top of the cliff face, on the west canyon wall, towards the work site below.
A rock scaler begins his 125-metre rappel from the top of the cliff face, on the west canyon wall, towards the work site below. Photo by Gina Anderson @gina-gerl imaging.


Rock scaler work site at water level on the west side of the Fraser River.
Rock scaler work site at water level on the west side of the Fraser River. Photo by Gina Anderson @gina-gerl imaging.

View additional photos from the 2019 emergency response

From the onset of the incident at the Big Bar Landslide, a government-to-government-to-government response was envisioned and implemented. An innovative collaboration between First Nations, Federal, and Provincial governments has been formed in the spirit of reconciliation and recognition of First Nation’s place at the table.

Within a week of the slide being reported, First Nations representatives from the Fraser River Aboriginal Fisheries Secretariat participated in early strategic planning that included First Nations engagement. The Unified Command then reached out to First Nations to invite participation on the Big Bar Landslide First Nations Leadership Panel. The Panel includes 47 participants from 30 communities and Tribal Councils from the Fraser River and Marine approach First Nation groups that have an interest in Fraser salmon stocks. The Panel, which makes decisions by consensus, provides guidance and decision-making on strategies to address the landslide. The panel provides input, reviews response options and endorses options, all while considering cultural sensitivities and incorporating First Nations’ traditional ecological knowledge and perspectives.

First Nations continue to be involved as the incident transitions into a new phase of response. First Nations’ traditional ecological knowledge and perspectives have been vital to the fish health and environmental unit, the Joint Executive Steering Committee and project director positions. This traditional ecological knowledge underpinned fish capture methods that were used before fish achieved natural passage which included: fish wheels, beach seining and dip netting. Local First Nations Cultural Heritage experts were able to conduct assessments of ongoing works to ensure cultural values were preserved.

The landslide has impacted numerous First Nations communities and organizations in British Columbia. Salmon are critical to Indigenous communities for food, social, and ceremonial needs. Leadership and delegates from communities across BC have taken helicopter overview flights. These flights are vital to understanding the scope and scale of the incident. Participants can subsequently share response updates with their communities from a firsthand perspective.

As such, the Big Bar Landslide response has set a precedent for future cooperation and to ensuring that information flows as efficiently as possible throughout communities and organizations across the province.

Chantel and Millie – Big Bar Landslide Mother-Daughter Beach Seining Duo, who hail from the Lake Babine Nation. Video by Trevor Mack.

Big Bar Landslide Fish Wheels, Sourced from Kitsumkalum First Nation. Video by Trevor Mack.

Big Bar Landslide First Nations Seining Crew. Video by Trevor Mack.

 

 

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