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 sheered 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) has come together to lead the response operations. This team is 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.

Monumental efforts have been put forth to reduce the impact of the landslide on future salmon stocks. In early September, due to the efforts of rock scaling crews to manipulate rock and lower water levels at the slide site, fish achieved natural passage. Radio tag evidence and hydroacoustic monitoring have confirmed that Sockeye, Chinook and Pink salmon have all been successfully passing.

The Unified Command continues to respond to this ever-evolving situation, as water levels, fish numbers, weather, and a host of other factors fluctuate on a daily basis. The team is developing and using new technology and strategies, as well as adapting existing techniques, to meet the unique challenges of this incident.

Big Bar Landslide Timeline

 

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

 

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

Chantel and Millie – Big Bar Landslide Mother-Daughter Beach Seining Duo

First Nations Seining Crew – Big Bar Landslide First Nations Beach Seining Crew

Fish Wheel – Big Bar Landslide Fish Wheel, Sourced from Kitsumkalum First Nation


Gina Anderson

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

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

Please continue to monitor this web page for updates on the situation:

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 are involved in the incident response at all levels: from the Joint Executive Steering Committee, Incident Command, project management, fish health, and environmental unit, to crews working on the river. First Nations’ traditional ecological knowledge underpins fish capture methods including: fish wheels, beach seining and dip netting. Local First Nations Cultural Heritage experts are on site seven days a week, conducting assessments of ongoing works to ensure cultural values are 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.

“A Unified Command Incident Management Team is like an arrow. The people in the field are the arrowhead, the office personnel are the shaft, and the Joint Executive Steering Committee are the feathers that guide the direction of the arrow.”

- Greg Witzky, Incident Commander

“We’re really proud to be here. We have to be here working together in a united group because that’s the only way we will save the fish. We must make sure we have fish for our future generations, my children, and others throughout the world!”

-Chantel Alec, Gitxsan Seining Crew

Millie and Chantel from the Lake Babine Nation   

Millie and Chantel, mother-daughter duo, who hail from the Lake Babine Nation, work with the Gitxsan seine crew on-site.  Watch a short video about Millie and Chantel.

Two fish wheels sourced from the Kitsumkalum First Nation

Two fish wheels sourced from the Kitsumkalum First Nation. Photo by Gina Anderson @gina-gerl imaging.  Watch a short video about these fish wheels.

 

NEW - Rock Scaling Operations

Rock scalers continue to rappel from the top of the slope to the base, removing hazardous debris and loose rock as they descend. The objective of current rock scaling operations is to stabilize the rock above the river bank where the slide occurred. This operation allows crews to work at the base of the slide safely, when water levels are low enough. Scalers are also using hydraulic and air-powered tools to manipulate rocks to create channels for fish passage. Through the combined efforts of the rock scalers and helicopter sluicing, more than 219,000 salmon have successfully swum past the landslide to date.

These successful operations mean that fish transport operations are not required at this time and related equipment is being demobilized where possible. This strategy remains a contingency plan if needed.

Scalers are also working on the west bank to move debris in preparation for a spider excavator and to secure anchors for highlines. The excavator is a highly specialized piece of equipment that will be lowered down the west slope via cable to an area below the slide. It will support work on rocks that cannot be manipulated by hand. Once installed, anchors for highlines will allow access to debris mid-river for manipulation. This is required  in order to restore long-term natural fish passage through the Big Bar landslide area.

Miryke Ciaramidaro and Brady Blaine, rope access technicians working on the Big Bar landslide.

Miryke Ciaramidaro and Brady Blaine are rope access technicians working on the Big Bar landslide.

Technicians working to manipulate rocks to increase natural fish passage.

The image above shows technicians working to manipulate rocks to increase natural fish passage. This has been a successful strategy with lower water levels in the landslide area. Once the spider excavator is in place at the base of the slide, it will support technicians by moving debris that is too big to move by hand.

Rope Access Technicians – Big Bar Landslide Rock Scaling Operations

Watch the short video Rope Access Technicians – Big Bar Landslide Rock Scaling Operations, by Trevor Mack, for a first-hand view of the rock scaling operations.

 

Photostream