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New fisheries minister visits B.C. slide site, says it's her 'top priority'

LILLOOET, B.C. — Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan visited the site of a massive landslide in British Columbia’s Fraser River on Friday in her first official trip since being appointed to the role late last year.

She says the disaster at Big Bar, northwest of Kamloops, is her top priority and has been a key issue for the government since it was discovered in June because it threatens crucial salmon runs.

Jordan says the slide is the size of a building that is 35 storeys tall and 18 storeys across and it was “spectacular” to see the ongoing work by provincial, federal and First Nations authorities.

She also announced two expert working groups that will develop additional options for safe fish passage in case the height of the slide or water velocity blocks certain salmon populations during the early part of this year’s migration season.

The Fisheries Department announced this week that a contractor, Peter Kiewit Sons ULC, will immediately start remediation efforts, including breaking up and removing rock debris, and will continue the work through the end of March.

The department didn’t select the contractor until Dec. 31 even though it had previously said the work needed to be done between December and March, but Jordan says the government was “quick” to award the contract.

“We recognize how important it is to get this work done,” she says in an interview Saturday, adding she met with representatives from Peter Kiewit Sons during her site visit.

They’re working on the site already and they’re confident they can make a difference in the next six to eight weeks, Jordan says.

“They have an extremely ambitious plan in place. It’s a very remote site, so getting there in itself is a challenge. The weather is a challenge,” she adds.

“But this is a priority. We have to do everything we possibly can.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 18, 2020.

The Canadian Press