The East Toe is a outcropping of rock in the Fraser River at the Big Bar Landslide site, northwest of Kamloops that has to be removed to restore fish passage. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Long-awaited blasting advances efforts to clear Big Bar blockage

Pressure has been on senior governments working with First Nations to remove rock at slide site

The Big Bar Landslide site on the Fraser River saw rock blasting Tuesday to remove a large chunk of the obstruction.

Pressure has been on the federal and provincial governments for months who’ve been working collaboratively with First Nations to get the blockage removed.

“This week, Peter Kiewit & Sons successfully carried out a planned blast at the East Toe,” DFO stated in a Feb. 21 news release. “Kiewit also made solid progress on the construction of an overland road for heavy equipment, and on the installation of a highline to facilitate site access and on rock fall prevention.”

The East Toe blast, which took place on February 18, took out a large portion of bedrock extending into the river at the site of the slide.

“The result is a widened channel and more flow directed toward the east river bank.”

Sto:lo fisherman Ken Malloway, who’s been involved as a member of the First Nations panel at Big Bar thinks it was a “good move” to finally get the blasting done by a “top notch” U.S.-based company.

“We’ve been pushing them to move as much of the debris as they can. Some rocks are as big as a house,” Malloway said. “Now that they took that East Toe out it should help with the fish passage, but there is still lots of work left to be done.”

READ MORE: FN reps want obstruction cleared

The massive slide, which was discovered last June, severely restricted fisheries and impacted communities reliant on fish. That triggered a joint effort in July by governments and First Nations, and an Incident Command Post was established at Kamloops.

DFO said acoustic monitoring downstream from the slide did not detect any fish in the area before the blast and no fish mortality was detected after.

“Drilling on the East Toe will now resume in preparation for a second blast in early March, depending on the weather.”

Malloway who also sits on the Fraser River Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission, said the consensus this week was that “DFO was doing as much as they possibly can on this” with the limited amount of time in the work window.

The Hell’s Gate slide took 40 or 50 years to get fixed, and another slide on the Bulkley River also took years.

“So we’re moving at lightening speed now compared to those efforts in the past,” Malloway said.

There is also talk about putting in a temporary fish way, to help more fish get past the blockage, which Malloway said he supported.

READ MORE: Work intensifies to free salmon at Big Bar


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


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