A group of innovators based in Washington is trying to find a solution to help overcome the 4.5 million salmon coming massive rock slide to a pinch point in a remote part of the Fraser River swollen with rain.
By Thursday afternoon, they should have submitted a security plan to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in hopes of building a complex passageway for fish.
Vincent Bryan, the innovator behind a nicknamed pneumatic pressure tube the salmon cannon , it was up to the Big Bar site near Clinton B.C., twice now to solve the puzzle of how to give the fish clear passage.
He says a single hand-loaded tube that shoots fish safely is too small for this difficult environment, which will soon be crowded with millions of migratory fish.
Watch the salmon cannon in action
Bryan's company, Wooshh Innovations, began to move delicate fruits, but then revolved around the fish and designed a series of salmon-moving devices to help fish in the aquaculture industry to overcome obstacles such as dams .
Adapting it to a river is possible, Bryan says.
"At the Big Bar, it's actually quite simple, it's how we can get as many fish as possible as quickly as possible, because there are so many of them coming," said Bryan.
The railroad of 1914 interrupted the stocks of salmon for decades
The Fraser River is the largest salmon producing river on the planet. During this time of the year, millions of fish begin to go upstream: about 4.5 million fish, including 10,000 chinooks, which are the key food for endangered orcas.
The last time the salmon was put into this kind of danger was in 1914 when a rocky chute triggered by the construction of a rail fell into the river at Hells Gate and blocked the salmon, affecting their population for decades.
So the federal biologists looked for a solution.
"This (concept of the passage of the salmon) is proven technology that we are really excited about – it's just … it's such a wild part of the river," said Matthias Herborg, a DFO biologist and the incident commander at the site of command in Lillooet.
He says he is eager to review Bryan's new security plan to see if it could work.
When Bryan first saw the muddy chaos in motion the Fraser River became this summer, he said he knew it would be a challenge when he took a look eight days ago, but then an unexpected 100 millimeters of rain in five days made the situation more difficult – with the river now a stream flowing at 4,700 cubic meters of water per second.
"The Fraser river is a mess at the moment: it is full of logs, debris and mud, it is a very difficult situation for fish in the water, as well as from a safety perspective on the surface".
So they re-evaluated.
Bryan says he has just spent several days on the site with a team of scientists, biologists and engineers from Washington trying to come up with a way to set up a flexible and massive barge. Once done, it is certain that a salmon passage using a pressurized system can safely move the fish to around 152 meters upstream.
It is not easy
Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told CBC that they are evaluating everything from truck transport to passing fish over the obstacle.
He confirmed that the DFO is working with salmon cannon manufacturers but said that getting the barge needed to build such a device was a challenge.
"The waters just below the slide run at about 20 knots, it's really boiling water, it's a pretty serious challenge, we haven't completely ruled it out but it's certainly not simple."
Bryan is in agreement.
He said the salmon jam will take more than a salmon cannon. He thinks it will take an enormous 45,000 kilogram barge with a complex passage of fish mounted on board to try to help many chinooks, springs, sockeye and coho who migrate to reach their destination.
But the helicopter in the barge sections is a safety issue. So they tried to do it instead.
"Moving a lot of fish in one day is not unusual, the need to install it so quickly and in this type of environment is unusual, there is no power there, it is not the Internet, there is no such thing. it's nothing, "said Bryan.
Hopes for a salmon line
But if they can overcome the obstacles and build the system they are imagining, they are sure they can move 50,000 fish a day. And all it takes is a salmon to start it all.
"Once the first fish enters the system, they are looking for a way out, when they are blocked they become rather agitated and find a way.
"One of the fish will identify this as a path and what we see happening is once the fish crosses – a line starts to form".