Using a Natural Bypass Channel to Help Preserve Aquatic Species

Background on the Site C dam

This dam is located along the Peace River in Fort St. John (BC Hydro 2021). It is in the process of being constructed and is estimated to be complete by 2025 (BC Hydro 2021). The dam will be about 1km wide and 60km tall. When dams are built, they hold back the water to create an area of stagnant water called a reservoir. Since the Site C Dam is so large, it will create a reservoir that is 2-3 times the width of the original river and produce a large amount of power (5100 gigawatt hours per year). The highway along the river will also need to be reconstructed since 30km of it will be obstructed by the dam.

This is a visual of what the Site C dam will look like in Fort St. Johns.

The site C dam will result in a disturbance of 32 species of fish that would normally migrate throughout this river region. The dam will create a blockage where fish are restricted from passing, as well as inhibiting the movement of nutrients from the floodplain to the river which will result in a decrease of water quality.

Methods to help fish migrate through dam

Some methods that have been used to help fish migrate through dams are the bypass channel and the fish ladder. Listed beneath are the main attributes of each and reasons why the bypass channel is a superior method to the fish ladder. In order to prevent the decrease in fish species after implementing the site C dam, we are proposing a natural bypass channel.

Bypass Channel

  • Man-made but imitates nature by implementing streams and natural units like gravel, sand, plants
  • Incorporates ponds and resting pools so fish can have time to recovery during the migration route.
  • Maintains controlled flow throughout the year (so there will not be flooding when there is high flow).
  • However, it is harder to monitor the amount of fish making it through the passage

Fish ladder

  • Man-made but does not imitate natural streams.
  • Can cause injury to fish during migration.
  • Fish can be stunned after the intense path down and be susceptible to prey increasing likelihood of predation.
  • Does not have an effective way to maintain flow.
  • Easier to monitor fish going through ladder


In the image (link provided also) below, it contains the metadata from fish ladder passages:

Although this metadata is very useful, I learned from Digital sources and digital archives: historical evidence in the digital age and Storytelling for the Twenty-First Century that without the ability to present the information in an informative and effective way, the data will likely be looked over and ignored (Owens and Padilla, 2021; Jennings, 2015). Whether something digital is classified as a story or not really depends on how the information is utilized (Jennings, 2015). It makes sense that people think data is not a story, it just looks like a bunch of random numbers. If the person who has the data is interested in sharing it with the rest of the digital community, they have the ability to make it into a story. Interpret the data, explain the patterns or lack of patterns. If there is no pattern to the data, they could try to explain why. My point is that I think anything can be a story if it is explained and interpreted well. I will interpret this metadata so that this can be understood by the more general public.

The site lists the inventory (i.e., the number of fish species and quantity of fish per species, that were monitored passing through the fish ladders), the project/dam it took place at, and the river the project was situated on. The data shows the amount of fish that successfully make it through the fish ladder. These numbers are much smaller compared to natural bypass channels.

Budget for implementing natural bypass channel

During the process of thinking about the issues that the dam will cause the aquatic system, I learned from one of our readings: Digital Creativity as Critical Material Thinking: The Disruptive Potential of Electronic Literature, that this type of conceptual thinking is called gnosis (Saum-Pascual, 2020). In order to begin actually designing and building a natural bypass to prevent these issues, I am incorporating poeisis, which is building and constructing (Saum-Pascual, 2020). Before building the natural bypass channel, we need funding and a timeline. For this project, an estimated $2,000,000 is needed for the construction of the channel. Grant proposals will be submitted and funding will be requested through that process. I will be using two more of the techniques learned in the class to raise awareness of the benefits of implementing a fish bypass channel at the Site C dam.

  1. Using a story map to represent the migratory paths of the fish and what happens to them if there is nothing implemented, a bypass channel, or a fish ladder.
  2. I will use a geographical map showing the where the dam is located and how the channel works in relation to the dam.
  3. I will also use a timeline to represent how long it will take the project as well as the details of the project throughout the months.

Timeline for integrating a natural bypass channel

I tried to apply the characteristics of a good timeline that I learned from Cartographies of Time – Chapter 1 (Rosenberg and Grafton, 2010). Timelines are much more substantial when they have meaning and a purpose behind them (Rosenberg and Grafton, 2010). Instead of just listing facts, this timeline expresses a story of events. Shown below is the timeline I created showing the process of integrating a natural bypass channel as well as the approximate time it will take.

Geographical map showing how the natural bypass channel would work

Story map (twinery) showing the path through a natural bypass channel vs. a fish ladder

Conclusion and future recommendations

I made this project to demonstrate why dams can cause issues for species in the aquatic ecosystems. I also wanted to show why implementing a natural bypass channel to the Site C dam would be the best way to preserve the species currently living there. Through the use of digital humanities techniques, I hope that these goals are better represented and you can see the benefits of the natural bypass channel.

Some other aspects that can be applied to this project in the future could be using technology as an effective way to advertise and raise awareness. In promoting my idea, if I were to get the public to be invested in the project and have it gain some popularity, the grant committee will be more likely to provide funding. Using hashtags (#savethefish and #SiteCdam) and promoting on twitter/social media could be a good method to do this.


BC Hydro. (2021). (rep.). Temporary Upstream Fish Passage Facility Operations Report. Site C Clean Energy Project. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from

DART Adult Passage Visual Counts Metadata & Glossary | Columbia Basin Research. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2022, from

Jennings, M. (2015). Chapter 1 the new digital storytelling.

Owens, T., & Padilla, T. (2021). Digital sources and digital archives: Historical evidence in the digital age. International Journal of Digital Humanities, 1(3), 325–341.

Saum-Pascual, A. (2020, August 2). Digital Creativity as Critical Material Thinking The Disruptive Potential of Electronic Literature. Electronicbookreview.

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