All six of Michigan’s fish hatcheries and the DNR’s survey research vessel are in line for tens of millions of dollars in state funding.
It comes in the new state budget appropriation, with support from the legislature and Governor Whitmer.
“We’ve been maintaining a list of projects that we need to have done and the list was getting longer and the price tag was getting bigger,” says Ed Eisch. He is the DNR Fish Production Program Manager. Eisch met with 9&10 News at the Platte River Fish Hatchery in Beulah.
The DNR has been treading water for year, getting by but creating a significant backlog of maintenance and infrastructure needs. Eisch says, “We have a significant backlog of deferred infrastructure maintenance. 42 All sorts of projects ranging from roof replacement, asphalt repairs, electrical distribution system upgrades. Things that need to be done and we just haven’t had the funds to do them.”
They were up the stream without a paddle – until now. “We’re getting a $30 (M) million dollar appropriation to deal with infrastructure needs at our hatcheries.” A major catch from the state budget- not seen in Ed Eisch’s 30+ year career. “Never. This level of investment in infrastructure, it’s unheard of. We’ve not seen this in the past. We’re very fortunate to be getting these funds to address the needs that are there,” he says.
They’re casting a wide net to meet all their needs. “We submitted the whole list…. let’s go for the whole ball of wax and see if we can get it,” Eisch says. “This was essentially everything that was on our list.”
“The Platte River State Fish Hatchery will see some updates to the electrical distribution system… we’re going to have some roofs replaced. The buildings have some structural needs,” Eisch adds. in Benzie – along with in Alanson (Emmet County) and (Wexford County) will all see maintenance, repairs, and structural improvements.
“None of this sounds real flashy, and it’s not. It’s deferred infrastructure maintenance. Things that we know we’ve needed to get done for a number of years. We just haven’t had the funds to be able to do it.” But over time, Eisch says fishermen will also see the benefits. “These projects that we’re going to do aren’t necessarily going to increase production or change production. Other than it’s going to secure production. All of the systems that are in place to keep the fish alive, the life support systems, will be much more sound,” he says. “Some of the biosecurity improvements that we’re going to be making will result in very noticeable fish health improvement. So the product we end up stocking will be a more robust product.”
This budget cycle, it’s the one that didn’t get away.
From the DNR:
Fish hatchery infrastructure and maintenance and fisheries survey vessel modernization efforts will benefit from the state budget recently approved for fiscal year 2023. The budget includes $30 million for fish hatchery infrastructure improvements and $4 million to replace an outdated Great Lakes survey vessel – all of which are critical to better supporting and understanding Michigan’s world-class fisheries.
For more than 120 years, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has operated to produce fish for stocking lakes and streams across Michigan. Today, there are six hatchery facilities – in Alanson, Beulah, Harrietta, Manistique, Marquette and Mattawan – vital to managing and maintaining the state’s fisheries. At 20 years old, Oden State Fish Hatchery is the newest facility, with the others ranging from 40 to over 50 years old. Though staff have done their best to keep operations running and fish thriving, the aging facilities have developed a large backlog of critical infrastructure maintenance needs.