Public worries dam removal in Michigan could hurt fisheries

Michigan's Boardman River. (lakescientist.com photo)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Some residents in northern Michigan are concerned about a dam deconstruction plan they fear could hurt area fisheries.

A public hearing was held to discuss the issue earlier this week in the Boardman River Nature Center, which is near the Sabin Dam that Grand Traverse County and a group of governmental, nonprofit and other project partners plan to remove. Officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality also attended, the Record-Eagle reported.

Project partners said the dam demolition would be the final removal project of a years-long initiative to restore the Boardman River to a more natural state, open fish passage and improve water quality.

But most residents who spoke during the meeting worried that removing the dam would open the trout stream’s watershed to a predatory migrating fish invasion or parasitic sea lampreys.

“The introduction of new types of fish coming up that river and devouring what’s left of the brook trout and fighting it out with the brown trout is going to be a very interesting thing to hear about,” audience member Walter Feiger said.

Another resident, Gary Marek, supported demolishing the dam. But he wants to see a moratorium on allowing any more fish past the Union Street Dam until scientists can fully assess environmental impacts of removing the Sabin Dam.

The Union Street Dam would still serve as a barrier to sea lamprey, said Frank Dituri, ecologist and project implementation team member at Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. He said state and federal agencies are considering a two-way fish passage system that only allows desired species to pass.

The Department of Environmental Quality said it will take the public’s comments into consideration, and people can still send concerns through June 9. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal and state agencies will also provide input over the next 90 days.

Dam removal is expected to begin as early as May 2018.

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