New Project to ‘Facilitate the Passage of Fish’ in Boardman River

“This is a problem that isn’t unique to just the Boardman River, it’s around the Great Lakes"

Traverse City is looking at other options for the FishPass project.

After being delayed last fall, sorting the passage of fish to the Upper Great Lakes may still be possible.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians are working with the city on an agreement for a new, separate project prior to the construction of FishPass.

“There’s on the order of probably 10,000 to 15,000 species that move into this river each spring and this is our first chance to actually be able to quantify how many actually come into the river, so that when we eventually get to the point of FishPass being operational, we know what time of year these fish enter, how and what numbers,” says Principal Engineer for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Dan Zielinski.

But why is it so important to control the types of fish that pass through the Boardman River?

“There’s a lot of fish species whose life history has been disrupted by the fact that they can’t get upstream to spawn and can’t complete part of their life cycle,”  says MDNR Fisheries Management Biologist Heather Hettinger. “It’s important that we get those fish upstream at some point, but it’s equally as important that we keep things out that could potentially be detrimental to the watershed.”

As part of the agreement, the MDNR Fisheries Division will continue studies in the Boardman River Weir this fall and close the Union Street Dam Fish Ladder prior to the removal of the Sabin Dam.

“It’s really about just understanding the ecosystem in the Upper Boardman Watershed—what kind of inputs it will get from the Great Lakes when and if the system gets opened,” says Zielinski.

All fish passage will also be blocked until the Union Street Dam is removed and the FishPass facility is completed.

“We’re really fortunate with the Boardman River that we’ve got a very stable ecosystem in the river, it’s lacking in some areas because of the dam, but on that same token, the dam has kept things out that we don’t really want to see up there—things like sea lamprey,” says Hettinger.

The new fish passage agreement is currently awaiting final approval, but they say things are in motion.