February 25th, 2012 • Upstream
The Department of Natural Resources recently released a list of updates for fisheries management plans in southwest Michigan.
All river and stream related items are listed below, most of which are updates on stocking or plans for fish community surveys. A few items of intrigue include a plan for musky in the Grand in Ottawa County to check gizzard shad populations, a proposal to shift coho salmon stocking in the Grand away from Lansing, and the removal of two streams — Blue Jay Creek in Berrien County and Spring Creek in St. Joseph County — from the list designated trout streams for a lack of trout, of all things.
The Kalamazoo River will be sampled in April to determine the presence of spawning lake sturgeon as part of a long-term population rehabilitation effort. Available sturgeon eggs and larvae will be collected and raised in a streamside rearing facility in New Richmond. The Duck Lake Drain fish community will be surveyed as part of a random stream status and trends program.
The Morgan Dam is scheduled for removal on Highbanks Creek, and floodplain restoration work will begin on Quaker Brook.
Blue Jay Creek in the Galien River watershed will be removed from the designated trout stream list due to a lack of trout. The Paw Paw River will continue to be stocked annually with yearling steelhead and with fall fingerling steelhead and coho salmon when available. Fisheries surveys will be completed at several sites on the St. Joseph River as part of a multi-year walleye population evaluation.
A fisheries survey will be conducted on Nottawa Creek. Natural resource damage assessments associated with the oil spill will continue on the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek. A rock ramp will be constructed on the Garfield Lake outlet control structure to provide better fish passage. Brown trout will continue to be stocked in Dickinson Creek at the Historic Bridge County Park.
A fish community survey is scheduled for Peet Creek and the Maple River.
The majority of the coho salmon stocked in the Grand River in Lansing are proposed to be moved downstream to improve survival. A public meeting will be conducted during the summer of 2012.
A fish community survey will be conducted on the Maple River. Steelhead will continue to be stocked in Prairie and Fish creeks, and the brown trout strain will change from Wild Rose to Gilchrist Creek in Fish Creek.
Natural resource damages associated with the Kalamazoo River oil spill will continue to be assessed. Portage Creek will be surveyed to assess stream habitat improvements near Alcott Street.
Spring Brook, Flat River and Bear Creek will be surveyed as part of a status and trends program. The Flat River and Rogue River will continue to be stocked with steelhead. Brown trout stocking will be discontinued in Buck Creek due to lack of survival and angler effort.
Crockery Creek will continue to be stocked with steelhead. Walleye will continue to be stocked in Lake Macatawa and the Grand River. The Great Lakes strain of muskellunge will be stocked when available in Lake Macatawa and the lower Grand River to take advantage of over-abundant gizzard shad and to provide a sport fishery.
St. Joseph County
Fish community surveys are scheduled for Lake Templene and the Pigeon River. Spring Creek will be removed from the designated trout streams list and Type 4 trout regulations due to a lack of trout.
Van Buren County
Walleye stocking will continue in Maple Lake and the Black River. The East Branch Paw Paw River will be stocked with brown trout.
Gov. Rick Snyder presented his recommendations for the 2013 executive budget Thursday, which included this small item of particular interest around these parts:
“The Governor recommends a new competitive grant program to assist public and private entities with dam removal and maintenance. One-time funding of $2 million along with $500,000 of ongoing funding is recommended to prevent the most at-risk dams from failing.”
You can find that on page 73 of the budget PDF.
Reaction on our Facebook page has been a mix of appreciation and recognition that $2 million won’t go very far. It’s certainly well short of the $50 million recommended by the Michigan Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (PDF).
Remember last April, when Field & Stream Magazine’s Kirk Deeter said in a blog post that Michigan is the top state in the country for fly-fishing? And how we all called our friends and relatives in Montana and Colorado and New York, and asked them how it felt to be such a loser?
Well, Michigan landed on another Deeter list yesterday, but don’t reach for the phone just yet.
This time the blogger compiled what he calls the rudest trout rivers in America. And ranking way higher than we Michiganders might like–second only to the famous Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho–was our own Pere Marquette River.
Before I’d given the list a careful read, I took that to mean that visitors to the P.M. are likely to encounter anglers swearing at each other, ruining others’ fishing and throwing beer cans at canoeists.
Balderdash! Blasphemy! Surely Deeter isn’t disparaging the plainspoken, hard-working, god-fearing fisherfolk of the Great Lake State!
No, as a closer look at the list reveals, he isn’t. Deeter’s talking about the rivers themselves, not the people who fish them. He points to the P.M.’s fly-stealing stumps and its unpredictable insect hatches as evidence of the river’s rudeness.
As he puts it, “some rivers don’t give a rip who you are, where you’re from, how good you are, or what you paid to get there.”
Now that sounds like the Michigan I know and love, and I’ll take this as another compliment. I might even call my out-of-state friends to tell them I don’t give a rip who they are.
January 24th, 2012 • Upstream
The Department of Environmental Quality and the Great Lakes Commission today announced the availability of $50,000 in grants for projects to monitor the health of Michigan streams.
Nonprofit organizations and local governments are eligible for funding to monitor water quality, habitat conditions and populations of benthic macroinvertebrates–aquatic insects, mollusks and other creatures that are indicators of stream health.
New volunteer stream monitoring groups are eligible for training and for funding to help them establish strategic plans.
Funding is available through the Michigan Clean Water Corps, or MiCorps. The program was created eight years ago to provide stream data to the DEQ, and has since made $340,000 in grants.
Applications are due by Feb. 17. Application materials and instructions are available here.
December 30th, 2011 • Upstream
It feels a little audacious to write a year-in-review post for our fledgling website. After all, it’s only been about half a year since we launched Michigan River News.
Sure, this post exists in part because it’s a journalism convention to revisit the year’s top stories (largely because it requires no original reporting, and allows us to spend more time watching the A Christmas Story marathon and sipping booze-laced eggnog).
Still, we’re proud of the stories we’ve produced this year. At the risk of sounding smug, we are confident that the articles and blog posts we’ve written this year have been quality pieces of reporting. And most importantly, as we see it, they are stories that would not have been reported in a world without MRN.
We hope you’ll keep coming back to us in 2012 for more in-depth reporting on the waters you care about. In the meantime, here are some of our favorite stories from 2011:
TOXIC SALMON: This was our last story of the year, and one of our best. It’s on the list because nobody else has reported on this potentially significant source of pollution in Michigan streams, and because of the role this issue could play in future dam-removal debates.
GRAYLING GAMBLE: A plan to reintroduce arctic grayling to Michigan waters got a fair amount of media attention. But we dug a little deeper by speaking with a state biologist who said the stretch of the Manistee River being studied for the reintroduction effort was poor habitat for the fragile fish.
SNAGGING BOOM: Salmon anglers will remember the 2011 salmon run as an absolute monster: very big fish, and lots of ‘em. The massive migration wasn’t lost on poachers, as we reported in this short blog post on an uptick in snagging. There was nothing terribly original or earth-shattering about the post, yet more people read it than any of our other content. We had to laugh when we discovered that readers had arrived at the post–which included warnings about the stiff penalties for snagging–by Googling “How to snag salmon.”
BOARDMAN DAMS: This story on the biggest dam removal project in state history was our first entry in an occasional series on such projects around the state. Federal and state agencies are working with non-profit groups and local governments to remove or modify four dams on the Boardman River in an effort to restore hundreds of acres of wetlands and reconnect 160 miles of stream habitat.
BLOODY RUN: Brian Bienkowski’s report on a plan to uncap a long-buried stream running through Detroit was one of our most read. Bloody Run Creek was covered with concrete and routed into the city’s sewer system, but a plan to restore it could ease the burden on the city’s ailing sewers and become the centerpiece of green development.
GAUGE FUNDING: As far as we can tell, we wrote the only report on Michigan’s potential loss of dozens of USGS stream monitoring gauges, which provide crucial river data to pollution regulators, flood forecasters, paddlers and anglers. This follow-up post listed which gauges were ultimately lost and how some were saved, but only for another year.
A fish-stocking experiment by the Department of Natural Resources appears to have happy results for Michigan’s brown trout anglers.
State biologists last year began stocking rivers and lakes with a new genetic strain of brown trout–offspring of wild fish from the northern Lower Peninsula’s Sturgeon River–in response to flagging survival rates for hatchery fish, according to an article on the DNR website. They continued stocking the hatchery strain, outfitting the fish with clips to identify their origin.
In electrofishing surveys on the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers, the Sturgeon River fish far outnumbered the hatchery strain. The technique uses mild electric shocks to temporarily stun fish so they can be netted for data collection.
Indeed, on the Manistee below the Hodenpyl Dam, every single fish identified was from the new strain. Below the Mio Dam on the Au Sable, Sturgeon River fish outnumbered their hatchery cousins five-to-one. The surveys also turned up unusually large fish, the DNR article says.
“I’m looking for the fishery below Mio to not only keep going, but get better,” fisheries biologist Steve Sendek says in the article. “With year-round fishing now and new regulations, this could be a win-win situation. This fishery is very special. And we can’t count on natural reproduction to sustain that fishery because of the influences of the dam. Stocking is going to be an important part of maintaining that fishery.”
It’s unclear how the Sturgeon River fish will fare in Lake Michigan and the inland lakes where they were stocked, but for river anglers–at least in tailwater fisheries like the areas studied–the new strain could be the beginning of a bright fishing future, biologists say.
“I’m very optimistic about the future with the early results,” Sendek says. “I’m hoping this will revitalize all of our brown trout fisheries, we just have to learn how to utilize this new tool.”
December 2nd, 2011 • Upstream
Rivers are high across southern Michigan today where River Raisin flooding has already damaged homes and more rivers are forecast to overflow over the weekend.
Streamflow gauges marked by blue and black dots on this USGS map show water levels “much above normal” or flat out “high” as of 12:30 a.m. Friday. Look here for the most recent version of this map, where pointing at specific gauges brings up information like the current river level and its flood stage.
Another USGS map shows the only river above flood stage is the Raisin, which is filling basements with raw sewage in Monroe, mobilizing sandbags and sump pumps in Dundee, and closing bridges into Blissfield.
The National Weather Service in Detroit has issued flood warnings for the Raisin and Huron rivers. Flood advisories stand for the Grand at Jackson and Ionia, Sycamore Creek at Holt, Portage River near Vicksburg and the St. Joseph at Burlington.
November 28th, 2011 • Upstream
The Department of Natural Resources wants your feedback on how to manage Michigan’s longest river.
The DNR will take public comment on the Draft Grand River Assessment (PDF) until Jan. 15, 2012. The 127-page report takes an in-depth look at the river’s fishery resources, geology, human history, land use and other characteristics.
It also lays out options for future management of the Grand. Public input will help the state determine how best to protect water quality and preserve open space in the watershed, what to do about dams on the river, and how to manage its fishery, among other considerations.
For river nerds–and if you’re reading this, you qualify–the report is a trove of fascinating data and historical context. Need to know how many fish species live in the Grand? The report’s got you covered (107). Looking for a brief history of the local timber industry? Look no further. Wondering how many lakes larger than 10 acres lie in the watershed? No problem (581). And for crying out loud, don’t miss the discussion on page 6 of mastodon hunting by Paleo-Indians in Montcalm County.
When you’re done with all of that, be sure to weigh in with your input on the report and the future management of the Grand. You can send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or share your thoughts in person at three public meetings:
- Dimondale at the Windsor Township Emergency Services Building, 300 West Jefferson Street, on Thursday, December 15 at 7:00 p.m.
- Jackson at the Jackson District Library-Carnegie Branch, 244 West Michigan Avenue, on Wednesday, December 21 at 7:00 p.m.
- Belmont at the Plainfield Charter Township Hall, 6161 Belmont Avenue on Wednesday, December 28 at 7:00 p.m.
November 11th, 2011 • Upstream
Many streamflow monitoring stations that were slated for closure will stay open for another year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
We reported in September that budget shortfalls would lead the USGS to close as many as 31 monitoring stations, which measure water levels and river currents and broadcast the data online. Regulators use the information for pollution permitting, flood forecasting and mapping floodplains. Anglers, kayakers and canoeists often check the readings to make sure conditions are safe for wading or paddling.
Ultimately, only 15 gauges were discontinued or downgraded to cheaper but less useful measurement tools.
The USGS splits the cost of monitoring stations with state and local governments. The Michigan Department of Transportation planned to pull its funding for 10 gauges because of uncertainty over federal transportation funds. Also on the chopping block were a number of gauges funded by the Department of Environmental Quality. That agency never planned to cut its funding for the program, but its contribution has stayed mostly flat despite rising gauge costs and the USGS could no longer cover the shortfall.
MDOT ultimately agreed to cover all but one of its gauges for another year, but with the warning that they might not be able to ante up again.
“The same thing will happen again next year,” said Tom Weaver, chief of the USGS section that manages the gauges in Michigan.
MDOT-funded gauges that could be shut down next year include sites on the Grand and Red Cedar rivers in the flood-prone Lansing area. The DEQ will take over at two former MDOT-funded gauges on the Pere Marquette and Jordan rivers.
Here’s the list of closed or downgraded monitoring sites:
Discontinued stream gauges
Huron River near Milford
Middle Branch Ontonagon River near Trout Creek
Flint River near Fosters
Kalamazoo River near Marengo
Red Cedar near Williamston
Deer Creek near Dansville
Cass River at Cass City
Pine River at Alma
Shiawassee River at Fergus
Stream gauges converted to crest-stage gauges
Crest stage gauges must be checked manually and only display the highest water level since the last reading.
Galien River near Sawyer
Otter Creek near Lasalle
Middle Branch Black River near South Haven
Peshekee River near Champion
Rogue River near Rockford
Grand River at Ionia
Discontinued crest-stage gauges
Ten-Mile Creek near Perronville
Portage Creek near Vicksburg
Rifle River at Selkirk
West Branch Stony Creek near Washington
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians made some riffles in the environmental news stream this summer when it announced plans to study the possibility of reintroducing arctic grayling into the Manistee River. The species was once prized here but was wiped out by overfishing, logging and competition from introduced trout.
The species’ 80-year absence here has led to an understandable dearth of grayling experts in Michigan. The closest we’ve got could be Dana Infante, assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University. Infante oversaw research that ranked Michigan streams by their potential to support a population of reintroduced arctic grayling—research a Little River Band biologist cited as influential in the tribe’s decision to target the Manistee for reintroduction.
Infante presented on the stream ranking project this summer at a grayling conservation conference in Alberta, Cananda. Though she was delivering one of the conference’s keynote addresses, the researchers who gathered to hear her talk found a blank spot on her grayling resume:
“I had never seen one alive,” Infante said.
Colleagues at the conference found that wholly unsuitable. Before long, she was on a Canadian stream casting dry flies to rising grayling.
“They took us out, and we caught them,” she said. “And it was just…I can’t tell you how special it felt. That’s the best word I can come up with.”
Here’s a picture of Infante and Ralph Tingley, the doctoral student who carried out the stream ranking study. Note their commitment, like all good angling fish biologists, to carry an aquarium to examine their quarry, despite the bulk and weight it adds to the vest.
Here’s a better look at the grayling and a memeber of their fishing party. John Gierach wrote that there’s no such thing as a good fishing dog, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one.