MITIGATING A CATASTROPHIC ROCKSLIDE ON THE SEYMOUR RIVER, NORTH VANCOUVER: “We have been working on this for four years so, for the community, this is just great news. It’s fabulous news. I’m handing out cigars like a new father,” said Shaun Hollingsworth, president of the Seymour Salmonid Society, which has led the rescue effort (Dec 2015 through 2019)

Note to Reader:

The September 2019 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter includes an article written by Kim Stephens, M.Eng., P.Eng, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. The article focus is on how elders are leading by example to bridge a demographic gap until Generations X, Y and Z take the inter-generational baton.

The context for the article is the current ‘climate emergency’. The article connects four dots: the Doomsday Clock – the threat; Adapt to a Changing Climate – the challenge; Improve Where We Live – the vision; and, Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework – an expectation.

The article describes three examples of ‘elders in action’. All have relevance to asset management. They underscore why knowledge, experience and wisdom built-up over time are invaluable in first understanding what needs to be done, and then, how to get it done. When time is of the essence to change our practices, society no longer has the luxury of taking decades to re-invent the wheel.

Shaun Hollingsworth, chair of the Seymour Salmonid Society, is one of the ‘elders in action’  featured in the article. His contribution is in spearheading the multi-year effort to save the Seymour River as a fish-bearing body of water.

Mitigating a Catastrophic Rockslide on the Seymour River,
North Vancouver

The Seymour River rockslide in North Vancouver occurred in December 2014. 80,000 tons of rock slipped off the west bank, reshaped the river and created a barrier to fish passage. Shaun Hollingsworth coordinated the response to save the naturally occurring salmon runs in the Seymour.

“After the slide there was a lot of ‘what should we do’, ‘we are not the lead on this issue’, ‘we need more information from so and so’, etc. What Shaun did was corral all the stakeholders in the form of a round table and sort out the issues, the information needed, and a path to a decision. He is an old dog who had worked with all the groups on other issues over the years. He was able to bring them all together,” states Glen Parker, also a Seymour Salmonid Society Director.

Restoring Path Passage

Shaun Hollingsworth explains that, for the past four years, the Seymour Salmonid Society has hired specialized contractors to drill holes into the boulders – some of which are size of city buses – and use low velocity explosives to slowly break the rocks into pieces, while keeping this area as pristine as we possibly could.

To keep the stocks alive over that time, the society had to organize volunteers to physically trap returning fish and truck them above the slide site.

“For the last two seasons, 85 to 95 per cent of the Seymour River Hatchery fry that had been radio tagged and released above the slide site have made it to the mouth of the river,” Hollingsworth said. “Prior to that, because of the size of the rocks, there were 19-foot deep chimneys and the fish were having to plunge that 19 feet and they were hitting rocks. They weren’t making it,” he said.

To Learn More:

First, read the synopsis  / timeline posted on the Seymour Salmonid Society website: On December 7, 2014, 80,000 cubic metres of rock and debris slid into the canyon blocking the Seymour River.

After that, peruse these links to media reports to get a sense of the undertaking:

One last blast: Seymour River rock breaking nearly complete

First fish clear Seymour River rock slide.

Seymour rockslide: more than your average community effort

‘Super-historic’-scale salmon rescue making waves in North Vancouver’s Seymour River 

Rescue mission needed to free trapped fish in North Vancouver