MOUNTAIN LIFE - Coast Mountains | Winter Spring 2017 - page 33

words & photography :: Kieran Brownie
The clamour of hammer drills bounces and reverberates off the sheer
rock walls of North Vancouver’s Seymour River Canyon and into the thick
rainforest canopy. Down below, workers scurry like ants in high-vis
work vests as they haul bright yellow air hoses and air drills beneath an
immense rock scar where a 200-foot buttress once leaned out over the
river. That buttress, over 50,000 cubicmetres of rock, came crashing down
on December seventh, 2014 and filled the Seymour Canyonwith debris,
effectively blocking passage for anything except the persistent flow of water.
This is not ideal for the salmon downstream from the slide, or the Seymour
Fish Hatchery. Built in 1977, the hatchery was erected to counteract the
deficit observed in the salmon population following construction of the
Seymour Falls Dam. Adecade later, after initial funding began to dissolve,
the Seymour Salmonid Society (SSS) was established by a dedicated group
of volunteers wanting to take over operations of the hatchery.
As informal stewards of the waterway, Brian Smith, manager of the SSS,
and his teamwere left to the task of getting the ball rolling and undoing
a massive geological event. Over 80,000 fish (Steelhead and Coho) have
100 per cent of their spawning habitat above the rockslide.
“If nothing is done, a lot of themwill die as a pre-spawnmortality,”
explains Brian. “They will leave the system entirely, looking for a new
location to spawn, or they’ll try to spawn below the slide where the
habitat can’t support it. We were looking at losing the entire Steelhead
population by 2019 and only remnants of Coho would remain.”
“Weall came together and formedapartnership,
withour onegoal being to reintroducemigration
passage through theSeymour Canyon for adults
and juvenilesalmonalike.”
–BrianSmith,Managerof theSeymourSalmonidSociety
Clearing the carnage.How to remove50,000 cubicmetres of rockslidewithout harminghumans or salmon?
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