I now call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 12 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
Pursuant to the motion adopted by the House on May 26, 2020, Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted on June 1, 2020, the committee is resuming its study of the state of Pacific salmon, with a focus today on the Big Bar landslide.
Today's meeting is taking place by video conference. The proceedings are public and are made available via the House of Commons website. So you are aware, the webcast will show the person speaking, rather than the entire committee.
Regular members know this by now, but for the benefit of our witnesses who are participating in a House of Commons virtual committee meeting for the first time, I should remind you all of a few rules to follow.
Interpretation in this video conference will work very much like in a regular committee meeting. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of either floor, English or French. As you are speaking, if you plan to alternate from one language to the other, you will also need to switch the interpretation channel so that it aligns with the language you are speaking. You may want to allow for a short pause when switching languages. Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are ready to speak, you can click on the microphone icon to activate your mike.
Should members have a point of order, they should activate their mike and state that they have a point of order. If a member wishes to intervene on a point of order that has been raised by another member, I encourage him or her to use the “raise hand” function. In order to do so, you should click on “participants” at the bottom of the screen. When the list pops up, you will see, next to your name, that you can click “raise hand”. This will signal to the chair your interest to speak and will keep the names in chronological order.
When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute. The use of headsets is strongly encouraged. Finally, when speaking, please speak slowly and clearly.
Should any technical challenge arise, for example in relation to interpretation, or a problem with your audio, please advise the chair immediately, and the technical team will work to resolve it. Please note that we may need to suspend during these times, as we need to ensure that all members are able to participate fully.
Before we get started, could everyone click on their screen in the top right-hand corner and ensure you are on gallery view. With this view, you should be able to see all of the participants in a grid view. It will ensure that all video participants can see each another.
I would like to welcome our witnesses today. With us, from the Fraser River Aboriginal Fisheries Secretariat, is Greg Witzky, operations manager. From the Fraser Salmon Management Council, we have Darren Haskell, president. From Peter Kiewit Sons ULC, we have Ryan Tones, senior vice-president and western Canada district manager, and Patrick Wilson, western Canada project sponsor and Big Bar landslide project manager. And of course, from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, we have Chief Patrick Harry.
We will now go to Mr. Witzky, for six minutes or less.
I understand that you will be making your opening remarks in your own indigenous language and translating for our interpreters. I would remind you that you will still have six minutes only, and I would ask you to speak loudly and clearly. Of course, if you run out of time or go a little bit over, I will interrupt to stop you in order to enable everybody else to get in their time.
While I'm welcoming people, I would, as well, like to welcome Ms. May, member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. It's good to see you here at committee again. I hope you can join in as we go forward.
We'll now start with Mr. Witzky.
The time is yours.
[Witness spoke in Secwepemctsin and provided the following text:
Weyt-kp xwexéytep. Greg Witzky ren Skweskwst. Quelmuc te Secwepepmcul’ecw.
[Witness provided the following translation:]
Hello, everyone. My name is Greg Witzky. I'm indigenous from the Shuswap Nation.
I wish to express my gratitude to the standing committee for blessing me today with this opportunity to openly discuss the state of the salmon and the impacts of the Big Bar landslide.
My role over the past year with the government-to-government-to-government landslide remediation efforts has been to offer traditional knowledge, cultural protocols and perspectives and to make sure that indigenous roles and voices are not lost in the efforts to help salmon get past the landslide.
Mr. Chair, I trust that the information you are about to hear today will convince the standing committee that now is the right time to utilize the committee's political influence to persuade government decision-makers to take significant measures to protect salmon for generations to come.
Pacific salmon have been impacted by natural disasters and man-made dangers since time immemorial, yet they have shown their resilience to endure. However, at no other time in history have salmon suffered a more imminent threat to their existence than that of today. There are no simple answers, of course, to address all the different complex impacts and cumulative effects surrounding the current poor state of the Pacific salmon. My witness appearance here today is intended to provide, from my ancestral wisdom, a viable solution to our growing problem.
I was asked to appear today to give my opinion on the state of the salmon and the impacts of the Big Bar landslide. My opinion will come from ancestral traditional knowledge, which has taught me that when our Mother Earth is hurting, then we are hurting, and if we are hurting, we hurt others. If we don't do something to stop that hurt when we have the opportunity to do so, then we're not living up to our natural laws to protect and preserve our Mother Earth for seven generations to come.
Mr. Chair and distinguished committee members, I ask that you sincerely consider what I'm going to now address.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has stated that even without any fishery impacts at all, some of the already endangered salmon stocks will not be able to rebuild without us undertaking significant actions to protect them throughout their entire life cycle. The Big Bar landslide occurred at quite possibly the worst time in history, as while the 2019 forecast was moderate, the salmon return turned out to be the lowest in recorded history. Unfortunately, this year's salmon returns are expected to be even poorer than last year. Back-to-back historically low returns are certainly not a good thing.
These unnatural low returns, compounded with the 2020 higher than average snow packs, increased rainfall and runoff, have exacerbated migration issues for the already dire straits of the Pacific salmon. Add in the Big Bar landslide migration obstruction issue and once again we have a complete recipe for disaster. We know something big and bad is happening, and you're likely thinking, what can we collectively do about it?
I was shown at a very young age that indigenous people were put here to ensure that all food and natural materials from our Mother Earth are for the continued survival of our way of life. Nowadays, we have rights entrenched in the Canadian Constitution that provide us with the priority access to fish, but more importantly, we have the responsibility to uphold those rights for all of humankind. We can't maintain those responsibilities if we can't participate in the process to safeguard these rights.
Many indigenous peoples in these contemporary times now have the skills and capacity to effectively co-manage salmon fisheries alongside our DFO counterparts. What we don't have with those rights and capacities are the same levels of funding, jurisdiction and decision-making authorities that our partners in the different government departments possess. Meanwhile, indigenous people are anticipated to play an instrumental role in the protection, management and preservation of Pacific salmon, so steps must be taken to embed this responsibility into the policies, regulations and laws that impact Pacific salmon throughout their life cycle.
Therefore, I am asking the committee to please provide direction to DFO in the form of the following recommendation: Utilize your strong political influence to persuade the powers that be to deliver equitable A-based permanent funding support to indigenous fisheries organizations, like the Fraser River Aboriginal Fisheries Secretariat, which has just recently blended with the Fraser Salmon Management Council, so that we can effectively collaborate with DFO to ignite a culture change as stated in DFO's 2019 reconciliation strategy.
DFO was created to police Indian fisheries over 100 years ago in order to provide the non-Indian commercial fishery with increased, unobstructed opportunities. As a result, systematic paternalistic values have been ingrained in DFO that need to be reconciled directly if we are to work together to protect Pacific salmon. If DFO desires to build renewed nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown and government-to-government relations with indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership, then they must prove it by putting concrete actions to these words.
That said, I wish to applaud DFO for recently attempting to acknowledge this divide by signing the historic Fraser Salmon Collaborative Management Agreement on July 5, 2019. To date we have a signed agreement, but we have yet to obtain permanent government funding support to co-design, co-develop and co-implement the decision-making, co-management and administrative processes.
Good morning, everybody.
My name is Darren Haskell. I am natural resources director from TI'azt'en Nation, located in the headwaters of the early Stuart sockeye run. I am also president of the Fraser Salmon Management Council, which currently has 76 member nations from along the Fraser River and approach areas in B.C.
First off, I'd like to thank the standing committee for inviting me to speak today on the state of the salmon.
Fraser River salmon have faced both environmental and human-caused obstacles during their migration to successfully spawn in their natal streams over the past probably two decades now. First nations and DFO have had numerous discussions to make the best decision possible to ensure that the salmon make it home. After over 10 years of discussions and negotiations, as Greg mentioned, we have signed a historic comprehensive management agreement that commits both first nations along the Fraser and DFO to work together to make these important decisions and provide a great example of good co-management. We're working on implementing that agreement right now.
The salmon have been in trouble for many years, with many stocks of both chinook and sockeye in danger of extinction. First nations have had to bear the brunt of many of these impacts on a yearly basis. For instance, in the island and approach areas, many nations that would like to access Fraser-bound sockeye and chinook stocks are not permitted to fish while these stocks are passing through their respective territories. Once an opening is decided upon, the bulk of the stocks have already passed and their chance to get their food has passed with it.
Our lower Fraser families have had to push back their community fisheries year after year. Once, these families were preparing for fishing in April on the river; now they are pushed back to late June or even July before they can even get a net in the water.
In the mid-Fraser, they have a mixture of stocks that are doing well and some that are not, and trying to decipher which stocks they can access is always in issue. In some areas, the fishing is by dip netting only. When dip netting, the water levels have to be a certain height. In low-water years, they can't reach the river with their dip nets, and then in high-water years, the fishing grounds may be too dangerous and the water too swift to fish safely.
In the upper Fraser, we have to wait and hope that the upper Fraser stocks have made the sometimes 1,000 kilometre journey from the mouth of the Fraser in order for our people to have access to them. And, we only have access to them if we know the stock is in a healthy abundance.
These are issues that we were already facing, and then Big Bar landslide happened. Some of the direct effects from the landslide have devastated community fisheries. We have elders who are worried right now that they they won't remember the taste of salmon. Our people already have many social issues, including a high poverty rate. A lot of families depend on these traditional foods, not only as their healthy source of food but as a way to keep their culture practices alive.
I'd like to give more technical numbers here. Some hard numbers to think about are the sockeye returns for some stock above the landslide.
With the early 2019 Stuart return, we only had 89 sockeye return, out of a brood year of 10,096. That's 1% of that brood year, 2015. The early summer aggregate was only 33% of the 2015 brood year, and within that aggregate, the Bowron River run had only 20 sockeye return out of a brood year of 3,868. That's less than 1% of a return.
The summer run aggregate is 25% of the brood year. The largest run, usually in the summer, is the Chilko run. That run had 168,000 return. That sounds like a lot, but not when you compare it with the expected return of over 600,000, which is 25% of the brood year.
With our chinook for 2019, we're facing, for the upper and middle Fraser River spring chinook, an 85% to 90% loss of the run, and a 50% loss for the mid-Fraser summer chinook.
If the Big Bar landslide is not cleared to be passable for the salmon stocks, many of these runs will definitely face extinction. I know from last year's cycle runs that many of them already face that risk.
I would like to recommend overall decreased fisheries impacts for 2020 across all fisheries. Even prior to Big Bar, the Fraser stocks faced pressure on all fronts—from commercial and recreational fisheries, and even from first nations. Due to their poor biological status, no fisheries impacts should be inflicted on any of these stocks from above or below Big Bar unless the data shows strong returns to their natal streams. In this case, priority fisheries should be considered.
Recovery plans, which include enhancement plans, need to be developed for these at-risk stocks of chinook, sockeye and steelhead to ensure their survival. The Fraser Salmon Management Council has developed a board and the technical structure to facilitate the development of these plans.
Furthermore, any proposals, such as the mass marking and selective marking of fisheries that have been present previously should be vetted through this structure in order to ensure that conservation and FSMC interests are addressed.
I'd like to reiterate my opening remark that our people are scared and worried that our salmon will not survive this ordeal. Our practices and techniques are not being passed to our future generations. I would like my children and their children's children to be able to go down to the smokehouse and prepare sockeye the way our grandparents did. I want them to learn that salmon is a part of our culture and a way of life. I want them to know that salmon comes from lakes and rivers and not from the back of a truck.
Those are my closing comments.
Tube cho mussi. Thank you very much for having me.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. On behalf of Peter Kiewit Sons ULC, we appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today about our role in this very important project.
As Mr. Chair mentioned, my name is Ryan Tones. I am a senior vice-president with Peter Kiewit Sons ULC and also the western Canada district manager.
I was born in B.C. and I'm still proud to call it home. Big Bar is a very important project to me and my family. I grew up in Maple Ridge. Living so close to the Fraser, I inherently understand how iconic salmon is to the Canadian culture in general and B.C. in particular. B.C.'s ecosystem and fisheries rely on salmon abundance, while wildlife depend on them for survival. First nations have a special relationship with salmon, and a healthy salmon population contributes greatly to their communities' livelihoods.
Kiewit has completed many projects to help support B.C.'s ecosystem since we started doing business in Canada in 1941. Some of these key projects include the Massey tunnel, the Sea to Sky highway, the Port Mann bridge and numerous hydroelectric projects.
Additionally, Kiewit has supported the Pacific Salmon Foundation for over 10 years now, not only through financial contributions, but more importantly by involving local streamkeeper groups that are supported by the foundation on some of our marquee projects. In fact, these groups were consulted during the development of the compensation and restoration designs on the Port Mann project, resulting in improved fish passage and fish habitat at Brunette and Como Creeks in Coquitlam, B.C.
I reviewed the June 9 briefing on the government's response to the Big Bar landslide and would like to use my remaining time as an opportunity to summarize work completed to date and future work as it relates to cost, scope and schedule.
On December 31, 2019, Kiewit was awarded the winter work contract for $17.6 million by Public Works and Government Services Canada to remediate fish passage through the slide area. The contract called for us to remove as much of the slide debris as was safely possible and to widen the narrowest point of the channel by drilling and blasting an outcrop known as the “East Toe”. This all had to be planned and executed before water levels rose in the spring freshet.
Understanding the impact that the slide debris had on the 2019 salmon run, failure to execute was not an option for Kiewit. We were confident that we had the right plan, personnel and equipment to successfully remove the slide debris. However, we also carried out three parallel backup approaches to ensure success.
Through the execution of our plan, we successfully gained equipment access to the slide debris and were able to address 14,000 cubic metres of rock within the channel, more than twice the projected scope in the bid documents. For scale, that's the equivalent of filling a hockey rink 10 metres high.
Following this work, Kiewit was awarded additional scope to continue work through the spring and summer to design and build the bulk of the components to support the pneumatic fish transport system. The scope included building a work platform, reinforcing the access road, flattening road grades, designing and installing additional rockfall protection to support the long-term use of the work area, constructing a lock-block fish ladder, and the design and construction of the mechanical, electrical, structural and communications systems to support the fish ladder and the pneumatic fish transport system.
Despite flood water delays, we completed the work for the pneumatic fish transport system on July 16, and I'm happy to report that the system is operational, with the first fish running through the system on July 18.
The additional work performed during the slide debris removal and the additional scope of the implementation of the fish transport system brought the $17-million price to $56 million.
Kiewit has recently been awarded additional scope to maintain the overall site management into October, as well as to provide site services and other deliverables to support DFO as it monitors and assists the fish passage during the 2020 salmon run. This additional scope increases the contract amount to an estimated $64 million.
I'm extremely proud of what Kiewit and our subcontractors safely accomplished in such a short time. This feat would not have been possible without the engagement of all the partners on the project, including the High Bar and Canoe Creek First Nations and the multiple federal and provincial bodies, as well as the local communities.
The calibre of the personnel from all these groups assigned to the project and the support provided from higher levels of governments was truly impressive. Everyone had one clear and common goal: restoring fish passage through the Big Bar landslide as safely as possible. This guided their decisions, and that has been the key to the success of the project thus far.
Kiewet is honoured to continue to be involved in this very important project, and I am personally proud as a B.C. resident of what we are collectively doing to protect the salmon migration.
We thank you for this opportunity. I hope you've found the project insights that I've shared with you today beneficial.
[Witness spoke in Secwepemctsin
I thank you for taking the opportunity to meet with us here today and for the opportunity to present in front of this standing committee on the Big Bar landslide recovery. I'm coming to you today from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem community on the banks of the Fraser River here.
Stswecem’c Xgat’tem was made aware of the landslide at Big Bar just over a year ago, about 13 months ago. This really hit our community hard. It hit at the heart of our community, or our communities, as we're made up of two communities.
I should introduce the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation territories. We lie on the banks of the Fraser River, west of Clinton, B.C., and south of Wind Lake, B.C. Stswecem’c Xgat’tem has always relied on salmon fisheries. Salmon fisheries have been the most important piece of sustenance for Stswecem’c Xgat’tem people since time immemorial.
When we were first notified of the slide and first engaged by the Crown and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, our message was that the salmon fisheries have provided for Stswecem’c Xgat’tem people since time immemorial, and any impact on those salmon impacts our identity, so our discussion with DFO over the past year has been very productive. As was mentioned by the previous speaker, we knew that we had to work with some synergy on this project and that there wasn't a lot of time for differences here. We have to work with synergy, and this calls for unity.
Over the past year, we've created a relationship with the prime contractor. We've created relationships on a government-to-government level with the joint executive steering committee, with DFO and with the province of British Columbia and have tried to move this recovery ahead as smoothly as possible here, knowing that the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem people's identity relies on this recovery carrying through.
In August of 2019 we had a commitment from the minister around funding, consistent funding, for the recovery project. Over the past year, I think we've seen a lot of support from government, and we expect that to continue. Minister has made us aware that this project is of highest importance to the Crown and to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and we're thankful for that.
Our number one priority at Stswecem’c Xgat’tem has been natural fish passage. I think it's something that we can all agree on, whether you work for DFO, or for the province, or for Stswecem’c Xgat’tem or one of our delegated agencies here that are working so hard to make sure that these fish achieve natural passage. I think we can all agree that natural passage is the priority.
We have a long history of fishing, and our identity relies on it. Over the past couple of years, we've had very dismal years as far as fishing goes, and it is impacting our communities. It is impacting our youth. We have missed out on those opportunities to get down on the river and teach our sons and our daughters, and the grandparents have missed that opportunity to be down there making sure that we pass on our culture and our teachings. That's why we're trying so hard to play a significant role in this recovery and to make sure that we achieve natural passage.
It looks like we're going to be placing some infrastructure down at Big Bar, and I wanted to mention that we've been here before, with the Hell's Gate landslide, over a hundred years ago. We've been here before. We found a solution at Hell's Gate, and I think we're heading down that same road, where there's a need for a permanent solution.
Stswecem'c Xgat'tem looks forward to participating through our indigenous benefits plan.
Our message to government, to the Crown, is that this landslide has the ability to affect and impact Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation's title and rights. If there's negligence on behalf of the Crown in properly recovering the Big Bar landslide, it could lead to an impact on Stswecem'c Xgat'tem's right to fish, which we hold dearly. That was the beginning of our discussion about how we wanted to be involved with the Big Bar landslide.
One of the options that were proposed to us from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the federal government was an indigenous benefits plan. Over the past year, we've developed an indigenous benefits plan with DFO and Kiewit. We've made progress. In the past year, we've developed a steady relationship with Kiewit, and we've developed a good relationship through the joint executive steering committee. We've been able to bring capacity on board to have our community involved at all levels with regard to the recovery.
Moving forward, we're looking for consistency and are looking to be further involved through our indigenous benefits plan and through our current relationship, on a government-to-government basis, with the federal Crown.
I apologize; I probably can't do a great job of answering the question.
Our mandate as Kiewit on the project was to put the infrastructure in place and to design and build the system and the support systems to feed this proprietary equipment that was provided by Whooshh.
As Mr. Tones mentioned earlier, I think we did successfully remove a lot of the material that was in the river—more than anticipated. We're hoping the work that has been done to date will yield good results, but it's too early to tell with the very low quantities of salmon that have gone through.
As the contractor, we're not really the experts to tell you whether what has been done to date will be a success or not, but we're very hopeful. We'll continue to work with everyone to make sure that we do what we can to get the fish through.
In B.C. as a whole, there is an organization that we work closely with. It's the First Nations Fisheries Council. It's led by executive director Jordan Point. He might have been a witness here in the past.
We're Fraser Basin-specific, the Fraser Salmon Management Council, so we deal with the headwaters out to the ocean area for Fraser salmon only, but we are poised to work with the First Nations Fisheries Council, which is B.C.-wide, and we do work with them closely.
Again, I hate to keep hashing on it, but funding is always an issue. Funding stops first nations from fully participating in our rightful roles to protect the resources for everybody, not just for first nations, but for children of fishermen who angle, commercial fishermen, bears, eagles, etc.
That's all I have to add. Darren might have something else as well.
My speech was cut off by about 30 seconds because I guess it was too long.
Anyway, the inclusion of our indigenous knowledge is essential to the success of these types of agreements, but that information isn't cheap. It needs to be resourced similar to the acquisition of biologists' scientific knowledge, western knowledge.
That sort of answers where our traditional knowledge component would come into play, because we have to bring it from the elders. It has to be from the communities. It has to be from the language speakers, the resource users and the knowledge holders themselves—the fishers, the hunters, the gatherers. It's not as simple as just asking one person on a committee. You have to involve the whole community.
That's my part about the traditional awareness.
I've also taken part in the Fraser Salmon Management Council meetings, and my community is the delegated representative at the Fraser Salmon Management Council meetings. As Darren mentioned, whether or not the Fraser Salmon Management Council is the delegated authority, there's been a lot of commitment from the 190 first nations that rely on the Fraser River salmon. At this point, over a third of them have signed on to the Fraser Salmon Management Council. To have that number of signatories to that agreement is a huge success. That shows the commitment we have for the B.C. first nations to look to recover the Pacific salmon stocks. It's not an easy task to get that many first nations on board. It shows that first nations are fully committed. I'm sure we'll have more come on board over the next little while.
This conversation we're having really goes back to the Crown's mandate, the nice gestures, the nice words we've been hearing over the past four years from Prime Minister Trudeau around recognition and reconciliation, supporting UNDRIP. You know what? When we speak about implementing UNDRIP, we think about passing on some of that responsibility the Crown and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have held so dear to their hearts for so long.
If you want to implement the United Nations declaration, or you want to look to implement some of the court decisions, we have an opportunity with the Fraser Salmon Collaborative Management Agreement. Those are the fundamental steps that need to happen for us to be able to properly resource the traditional knowledge, title and rights discussion. Some of the responsibility needs to be passed on to the first nation.
That's probably being debated somewhere in Ottawa at this time as to how to do that. But that's what we want. We want responsibility with regard to fisheries within the Fraser River watershed. I think those discussions are coming, and we need to take them seriously. When I look at that Fraser Salmon Collaborative Management Agreement, it is a step towards first nations taking on more responsibility for salmon, and it's a long time coming.
We can look to tools such as that agreement to improve our place with regard to the management of the salmon stock, which means so much to our identity, a symbol of the people.
The site at Big Bar is a very important and very sensitive site to Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation. For those who have been lucky enough to visit the site, you definitely get a picture of why that site would be so dear to our people. That site down there has shown, through the archeological work, to be a very sensitive archeological area and culturally sensitive area.
I think part of the challenge with this project is definitely the number of players in the game, and the planning portion of this project. It means that sometimes work has to happen quickly. We find at Stswecem'c Xgat'tem that we are toeing the line as far as consultation occurring. We've said that natural fish passages are the number one priority. However, when you're dealing with free, prior and informed consent, there's definitely a path for that too.
Stswecem'c Xgat'tem has put its efforts into playing a very important role with regard to the Big Bar landslide recovery. We have a process in place at Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation with regard to our land use policy and our consultation, accommodation guidelines. We're toeing the line because of timelines, because of Mother Nature.
I don't think it's been mentioned yet how much Mother Nature has played a role in this recovery. When you start to talk about timelines, we should definitely pay attention and be mindful that Mother Nature is in charge here. Mother Nature has definitely impacted this project.
There have been times when Stswecem'c Xgat'tem has made some decisions in a faster manner, quicker manner than we usually work, but we are consulted, definitely. Through the indigenous benefit planning, we've been able to have archeologists on the ground. Through our next period here, we will be renegotiating our indigenous benefits plan, and we plan on including the cultural heritage resource support within that plan.
We plan to continue to build synergy within this project. We can see the number of people on the screen here today, and I'm sure there are another 200 or 300 people behind the scenes who are working with this project. It's important that we have great synergy.
Thank you so much, Jaime. This is so generous of you.
I'm on the traditional territory, I acknowledge, of the WSANEC people and the Coast Salish peoples of the Saanich Peninsula.
I'm going to try to focus my question and ask it of Mr. Tones, but I want to preface it and make sure that I understood key points from Mr. Witzky and from Chief Patrick Harry.
What I've heard from you is that we need a permanent solution like Hell's Gate, which means that we're looking at fish ladders at this point, more than removal of rock. Hell's Gate happened in what, 1915? It took until the 1960s to develop a permanent solution with fish ladders and fishways, and that did end up working.
I just want to know, from Chief Harry and from Mr. Witzky, have I properly understood the key points you made about what it will take to recover—if we can recover—from this disastrous slide?
I'll go to Mr. Witzky first.
Thank you so very much. Haishka
I want to turn to our engineer with the Kiewit Corporation.
Mr. Tones, I know that you've been a recipient of $17 million initially, and that the cost has skyrocketed to $52 million. I'm wondering. Is the mandate—the terms of work, the scope of work that your company has right now—restricted to removal of rock? Or is any portion of it designated for how now is the time to start figuring out how to build fishways?
I hear you, Chief Harry. We don't want to abandon getting the rock out of the river, but it seems to me that we had better start figuring out how to build those fishways, because it's urgent.
What does your contract ask you to do?
Thank you for the question.
The contract has evolved over time. When it first started and we won the contract for the 17 million dollars' worth of scope, as you mentioned, it was for removal of a portion of the rock in the river. We were able to successfully execute that and remove more than anticipated. I believe I mentioned that approximately 14,000 cubic metres was addressed in the river, of the total rock that's down there. Then, as you understand from the Mother Nature comments, water levels were coming up and that rock removal operation was paused at that time.
Then we were asked to price and build additional scope around what was described as the Whooshh system. That was an approximately $30-million scope to do the mechanical transportation over the remaining rock. The third piece that I mentioned in my opening remarks is really about follow-on site management to help as we collaborate and discuss what the next step is.
We do not have any scope to do a permanent fish ladder at this point, or to do some of the other things that are being brainstormed. I'd just like to say on behalf of the company that if those things are of interest to the committee and to DFO down the road, we are absolutely open to discussing them to help the situation.
I'll get back to the fish ladder thing in a second. The next question I have for you is about hydrology.
Did you have a before-and-after picture of the hydrology of the river after you removed, I believe, 14,000 cubic metres of rock, which I think was a number that you said exceeded the original expectation?
Obviously, from an engineering perspective, you would have looked at the hydrology to maximize.... Whether it's blasting out the East Toe or the larger chunks of rock, did you strategically go after specific areas of the river, or did you just go with the easiest stuff to get at? Did you have a before picture of the hydrology, and an after picture? Was there a target of the hydrology of the current you were looking for in order to enable fish passage, and were you able to achieve that, if that was indeed what you were trying to do?
I want to get back to our indigenous folks. It's really good to have you guys here, because we're getting a glimpse of things, and not just with the current situation. My focus and my interest is in what goes beyond this particular project.
The management council, the collaborative management council, is a great title. It would be nice to think that this structure would survive beyond the permanent resolution of the Big Bar issue into work that we need to have done to come up with more permanent solutions to the greater issues, the habitat and all of the things that are affecting the health of the salmon stocks in British Columbia.
You mentioned that resources were a big thing. Our government has invested a lot of money back into DFO, into science and everything else, but in some of our earlier studies we also recognized that the people who live on the ground in the community are a resource that we have not marshalled, not mobilized.
You talked about the resources necessary to get the current work done and then perhaps the resources necessary to keep moving forward. Can you put dollars and cents to that? It all comes down to that, obviously, and the kind of investment that's necessary to make sure that the effort we've seen so far works in the current project, first of all, but can also translate into future work to help us restore the stocks.
Can you put a dollar figure on what you think it will take on an ongoing basis, not just a one-time hit?
I think it's hugely important.
Speaking on the Cohen commission, there's not one single smoking gun on the issues of salmon.
One of the things we've always wanted was to have more monitoring of our migrating species to take place further out. We know that our fish go past Haida Gwaii, and they access them through fisheries there. They hit landfall up in Alaska, and we don't know whether Alaska is being truthful on the amounts that they catch from us.
Another thing is the habitat portion of it. We've been pushing for habitat dollars for years and years. A lot of the proposals we submit are sent back because they're not approved or they're not considered a priority, so we scratch our heads, thinking....
That was one of the things we started prior to the landslide. We finally got approval after about four or five years of lobbying for small-scale enhancement projects in some of the small streams in the upper Fraser. We finally had approval for that prior to the Big Bar landslide. We were making small steps in that direction, but a lot more is needed.
Those are the questions that our chiefs and our councils are asking: Are we going to have to step toward hatcheries and other enhancement means to even achieve getting our fish back?
I also want to thank our witnesses who appeared today. Thank you for sharing your expertise and your knowledge on the issue that's taking place at Big Bar. We're delighted that you were able to join us.
We're going to take a minute now for our witnesses to sign off as we go into a very short bit of committee business.
Now, as we know, the committee agreed in June that we would meet twice in July and twice in August. We know that in August the schedule is Tuesday the 11th and Thursday the 13th. As a committee, we have to decide now which studies will be done in these two meetings.
I don't know if anyone would like to make a suggestion to the committee on what the committee should do for these two meetings in August. I will just add that for the Pacific salmon study, the motion indicated no fewer than six meetings. Once we have Thursday's meeting done, we will have had four of those six meetings.
I would like to receive some direction so that the analysts and clerk can start planning for witnesses going forward, and not leave it to the last minute.