Big Bar Landslide Incident

Big Bar Landslide banner

In late June, a landslide in a remote, rugged canyon along the Fraser River north of Lillooet was reported to authorities. Huge pieces of rock from a 125-metre cliff had sheared off and crashed in to the river, creating a five-metre waterfall. Based on the magnitude of the obstruction, salmon migrating upstream were impeded from naturally proceeding beyond the landslide.

A Unified Command that includes all levels of government (First Nations, provincial and federal) came together to lead the response operations. This team was comprised of people from a vast array of backgrounds: scientists and engineers, First Nations fishing crews and archaeological monitors, field and support staff from the BC Wildfire Service, biologists, rock scalers and hydrologists, alongside many others.

The Unified Command has been transitioning into a new phase of response over the month of October.  The Project team is guided by a Joint Executive Steering Committee, a collaboration between First nations, Federal, and Provincial governments. 

In early September, due to the efforts of rock scaling crews to manipulate rock and lower water levels at the slide site, salmon  achieved some natural passage. But our work isn’t done. While the majority of the 2019 Fraser salmon run migration is nearly complete (coho and steelhead are still migrating upstream), we recognize that continued, sustained efforts will be required over the winter, spring and years ahead, to reduce the impact of the landslide on future Fraser River salmon returns.

Strategic evaluation and planning regarding the next phase of on-site work to be done as well as logistics, safety and oversight requirements, are currently taking place among members of the Project team, stakeholders and First Nations.

Updates regarding significant work actions and milestone achievements will continue to be uploaded to the incident website.

We would like to extend a thank you to all individuals involved in the response to the Big Bar Landslide for the work done to date. The dedicated efforts of the many scientists and engineers, First Nations fishing crews and archaeological monitors, field and support staff from the BC Wildfire Service, Canadian Coast Guard personnel, biologists, rock scalers and hydrologists, alongside many others has been instrumental in the response to the unique challenges of this incident.

Big Bar Landslide Timeline

 

On behalf of Unified Command, we are pleased to announce our collaboration with two talented local B.C. artists. We have had the pleasure of sharing our passion for ensuring the safe passage of salmon with these two individuals. Trevor Mack, filmmaker, and Gina Anderson, photographer, have captured the spirit and efforts of those who continue to dedicate 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.

 

Response Updates

September

August

July

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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