Conservation groups look to open river flow at Fish Hatchery site
Fri, 01/29/2021 - 11:14am caleb
Anglers of the Au Sable and Trout Unlimited secure permission from county board for feasibility study
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Two river conservation groups – one of which runs the Grayling Fish Hatchery – is looking to explore some changes at the facility that would allow fish and other forms of aquatic life to move freely through the East Branch of the AuSable River at the area.
Joe Hemming of Anglers of the Au Sable and Dr. Bryan Burroughs of Michigan Trout Unlimited gave a presentation – “Aquatic Organism Passage in the East Branch Au Sable Watershed” – to the Crawford County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting on Thursday, January 28, asking the board to approve a “design/feasibility study” at not cost to the county that would explore ways to provide passage for fish through the facility.
The Anglers of the Au Sable run the Grayling Fish Hatchery. Hemming said the group is working with Trout Unlimited on the project and the study would be paid for through grants and donations.
Dr. Burroughs said the Fish Hatchery “has a lot of manmade structures” and some of them prevent aquatic life from moving between parts of the river. Dr. Burroughs said fish and other forms of aquatic life “need different parts of a habitat for survival” depending on their life cycle, and opening up the river would help in “giving the fish access to everything they need.”
“The (Grayling Fish Hatchery) site has many manmade structures along the stream that either are used for hatchery operation or were used historically, but no longer are, and these either prevent or impede the passage of aquatic organisms between the mainstream of the AuSable River and the East Branch,” according to the presentation from Dr. Burroughs.
The groups said their “preliminary assessment” is “that it is feasible to achieve fish passage through the stream while maintaining current flow levels through the hatchery,” according to the presentation.
One possible method cited during the presentation is “grade controls,” described as “structures that lock or fix the elevation of streambeds at specific locations. They can be thought of as mini dams embedded into the bottoms of streams. (They) can replace a taller impassable dam with a series of small passable ‘drops’ while fixing upstream stream elevations at specific levels.”
The two groups asked the county board for “approval/support that we pursue funding to allow for a rigorous formal engineering analysis and evaluation.”
“We will pursue funding for this work, accept responsibility for administration, coordination, and oversight of it, and ensure the county’s involvement in the process to the maximum extent the county desires,” according to the two groups. “Upon completion of this work we would present the findings for your information and consideration.”
The Board of Commissioners approved the proposal with a 7-0 vote during the January 28 meeting. The meeting was held online via Zoom.