Adams Chapter Response to Draft Boardman River Assessment

Adams Chapter Response Letter

 

May 16, 2014

Mr. Todd Kalish, Fisheries Division

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

970 Emerson Road

Traverse City, MI 49696

RE: Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited

Boardman River Assessment Response

Dear Mr. Kalish:

As President of the Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited I thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Boardman River Assessment. The Assessment was, for the most part, well written and full of very interesting information. The Assessment was placed on the Chapter’s website and a notice with a link to the Assessment was emailed to all members encouraging them to respond either directly to you or to the Chapter through me. Emails and letters that I received are included at the end of this letter.

The Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited was formed in 1996 to protect our local coldwater resources. Soon after forming, the Chapter adopted the Boardman as its “Home” river. The Chapter’s name is based on a world famous dry-fly that was created by Leonard Halladay on the Boardman River in 1922. To date, the Chapter has raised and funneled nearly $200,000 to local conservation organizations and other groups working to conserve, protect, and restore our coldwater rivers here in northwest lower-Michigan. This is on top of thousands of volunteer hours by Chapter members.

By far the greatest concern that we’ve heard from our members is the passage of non-native Great Lakes fish. In September of 2008, the Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited conducted a survey of their 321 members. The survey covered three main areas of concern to Chapter members: Fate of the Boardman River Dams, Fish Passage, and Quality Regulations. Eighty-three (83) surveys were completed and returned for a response rate of 26%. The MNDR was supplied with the results which are summarized below.

A majority of the Chapter members (62%) supported removing Brown Bridge, Boardman and Sabin dams and retain/repair Union Street as their most desirable outcome. As far as Quality Regulations, 85% responded that they would support gear restrictions. Of those in favor, 76% support flies only, 73% support catch and release and 33% support artificial lures only regulations. On the question of if you would support allowing steelhead to pass the entire length of the Boardman River (with the understanding that salmon would be blocked at the weir), 67% of respondents were opposed.

In a recent email on the subject of fish passage, a Chapter member pointed out that he believes “it’s anticipated that the quality of the spawning habitat for Pacific salmonids in the Boardman above Sabin is such that any of these species would be considered likely to be self-sustaining if allowed passage”. He continued that “the Boardman could be a tremendous sink of reproduction and recruitment (for Great Lakes fish)”.

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Adams TU Response

May 16, 2014

This is exactly what a majority of the Chapter members are so concerned about….the Boardman being used by the MDNR as a sink for reproduction and recruitment.

Another seasoned Chapter member wrote “I’ve fished the “Bear Creek” in Manistee County since the 1960’s and caught a “precocious” coho salmon a year before the “first run was scheduled” while fishing for trout in the fall of the year. At the time I was delighted anticipating that type of fishing in the years ahead however my anticipation turned to angst when I started to see “Bear Creek’s” native brook trout lying dead along the creek’s edges with large bite marks across their bodies when the salmon cleared the brook trout from the salmon’s spawning areas. The brookies that I saw killed included fish up to twelve inches and more. The brook trout population in Bear Creek, in my opinion, has never recovered to the levels that existed prior to the salmon introduction”.

Another member points out the upper Manistee above Tippy Dam and the Au Sable above Foote Dam are great fisheries because so many people have worked so long and hard to insure “quality fishing” on those waters. One can only conclude that after all the studies and proven results on those rivers that the MDNR would look to use the successful management of these systems as a model in order to provide for the best interest of “our” river as well.

The fifth option under Biological Communities states “Protect native and naturalized aquatic species from predation, competition, and habitat destruction from invasive species, by suppressing the spread and population expansion of invasives”. The introduction of non-native, non-naturalized Great Lakes anadromous fish, much like invasive species, will cause increased predation, competition, and habitat destruction greatly impacting native and naturalized aquatic species….exactly what the MDNR states that it’s trying to protect against.

The following are our recommendations and comments regarding the specific Management Options:

Geology and Hydrology

The Chapter would like to see an Option that addresses hydraulic fracturing.

Channel Morphology

On a general note, since 1996 the Chapter has been very involved both through volunteer efforts and funding support to improve the diversity of stream channel habitat of the Boardman River.

Need an Option that addresses greater funding to support increased data collection.

Dams and Barriers

The fifth Option addresses Union Street Dam and speaks to allowing passage of “select species” need to identify “select species”.

 

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Adams TU Response

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Soils and Land Use Patterns

The sixth Option addresses undersized, perched, misaligned, or incorrectly placed culverts. Earlier in the Assessment it’s stressed that, “We must view the river system as a whole, for many important elements are driven by whole-system processes”. Therefore, the Chapter would like to see this Option address that when these crossings are replaced consideration is given to the other wildlife species that utilizes the riparian corridor and that the crossing provides for that use.

The Chapter would also like to see an Option that allows for the use of properly sized, located, and maintained sand traps as a tool to remove excessive sediment.

Special Jurisdictions

The first Option addresses maintaining the natural character and function of the Boardman River watershed by extending the Natural River jurisdiction to include headwater areas of the North and South branches….also need to include extending NR jurisdiction to headwater areas on other tributaries listed in the NR Plan.

The Chapter supports an Option that maintains or enhances the Boardman’s “Blue Ribbon” trout stream status.

As previously mentioned, the Chapter would like to see an Option that addresses “special regulations” on the Boardman.

Water Quality

Need an Option that addresses the potential nutrient loading and bio-contaminants introduced from non-native Great Lakes fish.

The Chapter would like to see an Option that addresses the potential for chemicals that are introduced to the groundwater that feeds our rivers, lakes, and streams as a result of oil and gas production including hydraulic fracturing.

Biological Communities

As previously mentioned the Chapter feels the introduction of non-native, non-naturalized Great Lakes fish, much like invasive species, will cause increased predation, competition, and habitat destruction greatly impacting native and naturalized aquatic species.

Need an Option that addresses the need to increase funding and research efforts to support additional scientific data collection.

Fisheries Management – (in addition to what’s already been stated above)

The sixth Option states “continue to operate and maintain the Boardman Weir between mid-September and mid-October, as appropriate”, what about non-native Great Lakes fish that migrate outside that timeframe?

Eliminate Option that references the size limit of bass on Arbutus and Spider lakes.

 

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Adams TU Response

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Recreational Use

First Option, add “properly maintain” after support.

Need an Option that addresses the use/restriction of motorized watercraft.

Need an Option that addresses the removal and/or trimming of fallen trees to maintain “safe navigation” for paddlers. How much should be trimmed? Who’s responsible?

Citizen Involvement

Good.

In conclusion, the seasoned Chapter member that was quoted earlier summed it up the best:

“My reason for writing is as a ‘Voice of Caution’ when discussion centers on the future fishery planned for the Boardman River. It currently is a pristine local trout fishery that requires careful nurturing as these dams are removed and the River is able, with assistance, to return to its original bed and the silt behind the dams be stabilized. I would strongly recommend that NO anadromous fish be allowed to run the length of the river for the reasons I’ve cited re: Bear Creek and the Platte River. The Boardman River is a “Jewel” for trout fishing and should remain so – there are plenty of other rivers in the area where a fisherperson can experience river steelhead and salmon fishing. Keep a barrier to prevent anadromous fish from ascending the river.

I remember well the ancient Indian Sage’s cautioning words: “Before an important decision is made think about how that decision will impact seven generations into the future”.

Thank you once again for this opportunity to comment.

Sincerely,

Mark Andres, President

Adams Chapter Trout Unlimited #676

PO Box 2129

Traverse City, MI 49685-2129

Phone: 231.883.1715

Email: markandres883@gmail.com

Cc: Adams Chapter Membership

 

Comments from the Adams Chapter membership received by email:

I know the Boardman River Committee is meeting with the DNR tonight at Sleder’s re: River assessment and I wanted to chip in my thoughts and experience re trout rivers impacted by anadromous fish.

I’ve trout fished (primarily fly fishing) for sixty-years in Michigan and “found” the Boardman River in 1964 when I student-taught at TC Central prior to moving to Beulah (Benzie County). Needless to say the Boardman was and still is a blue-ribbon trout stream. I would like to comment on my experience with two other streams in Northern Michigan that could be seen as potential harbinger’s for the Boardman River.

I’ve fished the “Bear Creek” in Manistee County since the 1960’s and caught a “precocious” coho salmon a year before the “first run was scheduled” while fishing for trout in the fall of the year. At the time I was delighted anticipating that type of fishing in the years ahead however my anticipation turned to angst when I started to see “Bear Creek’s” native brook trout lying dead along the creek’s edges with large bite marks across their bodies when the salmon cleared the brook trout from the salmon’s spawning areas. The brookies that I saw killed included fish up to twelve inches and more. The brook trout population in Bear Creek, in my opinion, has never recovered to the levels that existed prior to the salmon introduction. The salmon enter Bear Creek from the Manistee River.

I’ve fished the Platte River in Benzie County since before the 1960’s, during the pre-salmon era, when it, like the Boardman River, was considered to be a Blue-Ribbon Trout Stream by fly-fisherman. The river abounded with brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Since the introduction of the coho salmon into the Platte River via the Hatchery on the corner of US-31 and Benzie County 669 the quality of the river trout fishing has dropped dramatically. The salmon dominate the river during the run with their negative impact on fall spawning river resident trout species and available food supplies as the coho smolt are released from the hatchery in the spring or from natural spawning.

The carcass of thousands upon thousands of salmon from the initial fall runs and dumping phosphorous waste from the hatchery into the Platte River resulted in an annual algae bloom in the Platte Lake which led to a Court battle by property owners against the DNR practices which resulted in the Court mandating the DNR to limit the number of salmon in the fall run and curtail the amount of phosphorous discharge from the hatchery into the river.

It’s my understanding that the DNR has designated the Platte River be used primarily as a Salmon Rearing river.

Up to this point the dams on the Boardman River have maintained an effective barrier to anadromous fish moving up the Boardman River. Personally I would like to see the other large dams removed as well, which I understand is scheduled to happen within the next few years, which should develop areas of the river previously flooded as “back-waters” into excellent trout habitat.

My reasons for writing is as a “Voice of Caution” when discussion centers on the future fishery planned for the Boardman River. It currently is a pristine local trout fishery that requires careful nurturing as these dams are removed and the River is able, with assistance, to return to it’s original bed and the silt behind the dams be stabilized. I would strongly recommend that NO anadromous fish be allowed to run the length of the river for the reasons I’ve cited re: Bear Creek and the Platte River. The Boardman River is a “Jewel” for trout fishing and should remain so – there are plenty of other rivers in the area where a fisherperson can experience river steelhead and salmon fishing. Keep a barrier to prevent anadromous fish from ascending the river.

 

I remember well the ancient Indian Sage’s cautioning words: “Before an important decision is made think about how that decision will impact seven generations into the future”.

Thank You for your time,

Ray Antel

1-231-882-5567

Beulah, Michigan

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I read all the OPTIONS and would love to see all of them implemented except unlimited fish passage. Keeping steelhead and salmon out of the upper Boardman is imperative because the Steelie and salmon fishermen are RIVER PIGS and trash any river they touch. I don’t understand that but it’s true and I am not the only one who says so. The Betsie is forever ruined because of the salmon and steelehead fishermen. The presence of the fish is not that bothersome to me but I know the trout will be affected and probably not in a good way. I do have a question about the little dam at the little pond in South Boardman Village. If that were removed, the pond would be gone and it would change the charm of that community just as the removal of Union St. Dam would change the charm of TVC. But that S. Boardman dam is old and maybe dangerous (I don’t know). What’s the story about that dam? Does it have any other function than to make that pond? I do know it collects a lot of trash below it.

Norm Fred BRCS

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From: James Zachow [mailto:james.zachow@gmail.com]

Subject: Boardman River Assessment

While I find it interesting that Brown Bridge Pond, which no longer exists, still gets cited as one of the limits for reaches of the River, the thing that concerns me the most is the statements of the advantages of allowing migratory fishes access to the entire watershed without any suggestion as to how that might be implemented slowly (by proposing some upstream limit, like Bietner Rd) to allow the practice to be studied for adverse impacts without going whole hog. While there may be evidence that Browns & Steelhead coexist on the Pine River, this is not the Pine River. Let’s see what happens with the lower portion of the river before we trash a known resource.

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I believe the reason for the omission on fish passage implementation is that this document is not intended to be a mandate for management; instead it’s a report on the multi-year assessment of the Boardman River watershed and serves as a synopsis of that work with recommendations for management.

If the MDNR is to be believed, the decision of which fish to pass above the weir and the Union Street dam will be arrived at via a multi-agency, nation to nation, and public consultation.

When the time comes for the Adams Chapter to provide comment on the passage or not of individual fish species, to be effective and meaningful those comments will need to be based on science, economics, and social aspects; “I don’t want salmon comingling with brown trout” will likely fall on deaf ears or blind eyes when rivers like the Pere Marquette and the Little Manistee have tremendous brown trout and salmon (and steelhead) fisheries (Bear Creek has all of that and good brook trout).

Best,

n.

Nate Winkler, Biologist

Conservation Resource Alliance

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From: William Gassman [mailto:billgassman@hotmail.com] Subject: Boardman River Assessment

Any advantages to complete access for any Great Lakes fish passage (indigenous or not) are far outweighed by the threat of adverse impacts of entry into the upper river by invasive species including the impacts of salmon fishing. I believe all migratory fish passage into the river system should be halted at the Union St. dam. To do otherwise even if well intentioned represents a real threat to this river system.

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Amen!

If I were a trout, I would not enjoy having to compete with steelhead and salmon for habitat and nourishment. Trout are nervous little creatures already. Having salmon and steelhead to deal with would not be a nice thing to do to them.

Plus, the Betsie, for sure, is a mess and it’s due – 100% – to the steelhead and salmon fishermen who trash the river. Last year we took 100’s of pounds of fishing related trash out of the one mile section downstream of the Homestead Dam. I don’t get that, but I guess I don’t need to. I am a cleanup up guy, and I don’t understand those who pollute with their cavalier use of the natural resources. What are they thinking?

Why are trout fishermen mostly “leave no trace” people and steelhead fishermen mostly are not? I don’t get it.

Also, I have heard some say, even fishermen, that it’s fish habitat when they throw tires, construction lumber pieces like docks and decks, furniture, bikes, mattresses, shopping carts, traffic cones, all sorts of trash, etc. in the river. It’s not fish habitat! It’s garbage!

 

Downed trees and rocks are fish habitat – not tires and mattresses.

I guess there are those of us who make a mess by our actions and there are those of us who clean it up. Which are we?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I for one do not want what is happening on the Betsie to happen on the Boardman. It might help our economy to have all those steelhead and salmon fishermen on the Upper Boardman, but it will destroy the quality of the river forever and there will be no return from the destruction.

Norm Fred BRCS

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Actually, I believe it’s anticipated that the quality of the spawning habitat for Pacific salmonids in the Boardman above Sabin is such that any of these species would be considered likely to be self-sustaining if allowed passage; in light of that I don’t know that there’d be much if any stocking of those species-which is exactly why the MDNR would be interested in allowing passage. The Boardman could be a tremendous sink of reproduction and recruitment and they wouldn’t have to spend a dime on stocking.

As far as science needing to convince any of us about the effects of passing Pacific salmonids on wild fish stocks in the upper Boardman, ultimately it’s the management agency(s) that will need convincing that it’s in the best interest of the resource to block their passage.

I’d like to point out that so far our discussions have involved four salmonid species, all of which are “exotic” (with the exception of the potential for seasonal occurrence of coaster brook trout) to the Boardman (the Michigan grayling was the native resident in the Boardman, resident brook trout were not present pre-European contact). Since the construction of the Union Street dam in 1867, native fish such as walleye, pike, whitefish, lake trout, perch, lake sturgeon, Great Lakes musky and even (potentially) coaster brook trout have been barred from running from Lake Michigan upstream to their historic spawning grounds. In my estimation, sturgeon, lake trout, and coaster brook trout are the native migratory species that likely would come in contact with resident trout in the upper Boardman to any great degree, though pike and walleye do co-mingle with browns at a seasonally heightened level below Sabin dam.

In an effort to avoid the perpetuation of the view that our organization is an elitist fly fishing club, which is how more than a few folks perceive Trout Unlimited, I’d hope any comments to the MDNR would include a discussion on the merits of not only protection of wild stocks of brown and brook trout (we are Trout Unlimited after all), but also an emphasis on ecosystem restoration and recovery of biologic function as a whole; such a discussion should not exclude native species because of a perceived potential for their presence to negatively affect a naturalized fishery for exotics.

Best,

Nate Winkler, Biologist

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Links you might be interested in checking out. The Lake State/Notre Dame study included work on Kids Creek at the old buffalo farm, I assisted a student researcher in a couple shocking surveys during the data collection phase.

 

http://www.gvsu.edu/gvnow/index.cfm?articleId=7E946D71-C2B2-E2A4-4BECD20782581AEC

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CDAQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.michiganrivernews.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2011%2F01%2FJanetski_salmon_brook.pdf&ei=I9VwU8PUFoqqsQSm54HYCA&usg=AFQjCNHfIVUFMBPekCxQ9j-KIwoccnt-eA&sig2=z5ARyIkDdwy_93iepkBSLg

Nate Winkler, Biologist

Conservation Resource Alliance

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Is there a place in the DNR response to underscore the role that the Adams Chapter plays in improving the Boardman River /

It would be more forceful (from an organization that puts its money where its mouth is) to highlight how much money & time the

Chapter puts into the Boardman. It gives credence to our stated concerns (instead of a bunch of elitists. We have poured time & money into river cleanups, stream bank erosion control, sand traps on the upper forks, aquatic invertebrate studies, stream channel cross sections, etc.

We need to come across as a chapter that lives, eats, and breaths the Boardman River in order to garner any respect from those that make decisions based on our response.

My thoughts, Mike Slater

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Agreed, Mike! We all know it is about the money — hence my first message. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on the protection of quality trout streams around the country?

Here’s a question for the DNR: would you think folks would like to see Steelhead on the Deward Tract? How about the Mason Tract or the Holy Waters?

Res ipsa loquitor. Ken

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Reads great, thanks to everyone that help put this together.

Though this director is not in favor of gear restrictions on the Boardman, especially “flies only” it’s not a sword I’m going to fall on for purposes of this response to MDNR. While I’ve exclusively fished flies for trout since I was a boy, I think folks should be able to fish how they want to on the Boardman; I would agree that there are rivers and sections of rivers elsewhere that gear and harvest restrictions make sense and would not be so exclusionary.

I think to be meaningful, large sections of river would be need to be gear restricted but because of the Boardman being comparatively small in terms of drainage and mileage, gear restrictions would potentially lock some folks out entirely from fishing a river they love.

Nate Winkler, Biologist

Conservation Resource Alliance