No timeline for opening of natural passage for salmon bottleneck on Fraser River
40,000 fish, mostly chinook and sockeye have been counted since measures put in place
Officials say they're working as quickly as possible but can't determine if they're on track to create a natural passage at the site of a Fraser River landslide that would allow salmon to reach their spawning grounds.
The slide discovered last month created a five-metre waterfall in a narrow and remote portion of the river near Big Bar north of Lillooet, B.C.
Al Magnan, environmental lead for the team working to help the fish pass, says conditions change every day so crews aren't working on a timeline.
Millions of fish are expected to reach the site in the coming weeks and Magnan says 40,000 of primarily chinook and sockeye have already been recorded two kilometres downstream from the barrier.
He says crews have transported 1,400 salmon by helicopter but few have been recorded passing the site on their own.
If more fish don't begin making it past the slide site, officials say a fish ladder to help salmon move up the waterfall is ready for installation on the weekend or early next week.
Mass die-off not imminent
While there appears to be a bottleneck of fish building downstream, Magnan says that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a mass die-off.
"From a migration point of view, it's never linear. There are natural delays in migration and natural barriers that take time," he said.
Analysis of the slide shows it likely occurred in October or November.
A number of salmon species migrate up the river to spawning grounds, including chinook, sockeye, pink and coho.
Work on the swift-moving river in the remote area is challenging and crews continue rock scaling to make it safer.
On Monday, they worked to clear roughly 300 logs that had accumulated in a back eddy immediately downstream of the waterfall to clear the way for a fish wheel.
The wheel being assembled onsite is one of many strategies biologists are pursuing to capture and move the salmon.