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More on the Au Sable

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We ran a feature on the extreme dangers facing the Au Sable river with the proposed scaling of an existing tourist attraction (that isn’t much of an attraction) last Tuesday instead of our weekly Bananas article.  This is so important of an issue that it merits further attention.  Mich Outdoors recently put together an overview of information that I encourage you to read, you can find it here: Au Sable River is Under Attack

This is incredibly important for a multitude of reasons.  First and foremost, that Au Sable is an incredibly valuable resource to our state.  It is a nationally renowned fishery that attracts FAR MORE tourist near and far than the existing tourist attraction that is proposing to expand by more than 15x.  The undoubtedly negative environmental impact of this will be extremely damning to the entire ecosystem of the river, and the economy that the river creates.

The potential damage of aquaculture or aquafarming far outweighs any capital gains that the state or the economy may experience as a windfall from supporting these businesses.

The shortsightedness of this issue creates a scary precedent for all waters – not just in Michigan.  If this can happen on the Au Sable, I’m sorry to say – IT CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE.  CLICK HERE TO LEARN WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP.

Here are some important excerpts from other resoures:

From the Anglers of the Au Sable

The DEQ admitted that when the fish farm discharges effluent at the maximum levels allowed by the permit, the fish farm will emit 160,000 pounds of fish poop and uneaten fish food, and 1,600 pounds of phosphorus per year. ** Without getting into detail, suffice it to say the DEQ testimony was weak. It reminded me of what the Flint Water Advisory Task Force said about the DEQ’s performance there: “Minimalist,” willing to accept mere “technical compliance” to protect the public, dismissive of others who raise concerns, and wrong in its interpretation of the law.

Finally, Dr. Canale applied his new model to the Au Sable River, and then assessed the effects the fish farm would have under various scenarios. His testimony and exhibits were stunning. He found that, even without the Grayling fish farm, the river violates oxygen standards. He said that, even if the fish farm performs the best possible treatment of its fish poop and feeding, the river will continue to violate dissolved oxygen standards. Finally, he said that, during low flows (summer drought conditions), if the fish farm were at maximum production with no treatment, oxygen standards at Stephan Bridge would be violated 98% of the time!

His findings regarding dissolved oxygen levels at Stephan Bridge were particularly alarming. Gary Whelan was asked if the current DEQ permit is sufficient to protect the river. His answer was short, sweet and to the point: “No.”

From Mich Outdoors

The Michigan DEQ (yes, the same group made infamous by the Flint water crisis), has approved a permit to turn a small tourist attraction into a large scale fish farm on the Au Sable River. Currently the small flow through hatchery produces less than 20,000 fish per year, but the state and county have approved the expansion, up to 300,000 fish per year

  • Harrieta Hills (the people wanting to expand the farm) is being given the land for $1 on a 20 year lease

  • They are not required to expand or upgrade the current waste disposal system that has been in place since 1914 and designed to produce a fraction of the fish.

  • This farm is located just above the “Holy Waters” section of the Au Sable. Which means this trout fishing mecca, that people travel the world to experience, is directly in the cross-hairs, and will without a doubt suffer a tremendous hit to water quality.

  • There are other state ran hatcheries that have been required to invest tons of tax payer money (rightly so) to upgrade their systems to create little to no harmful discharge. For some reason however this private company is not being held to the same standard.

  • This is being looked at as a gateway case by the state, its agriculture agencies, and Harrieta Hills to open up our great waters to more large scale aquaculture business that could further hurt our delicate ecosystems.

After the farm was shut down, the state opened a large farm at the headwaters, quickly destroying the remaining trout population. An frighteningly similar situation. A once world renowned trout stream that brought tourists from around the globe was destroyed. The article below shows the research to the problem, and also explains that once the farm was shut down the river has experienced a rebound in local resident trout.

From Gink and Gasoline

They intend to operate the hatchery with little modification, which will flush all of their raw waste untreated into the river until they reach 100,000 pounds production, at which point they plan to establish “quiescent zones” in which solids will settle to the bottom and be scooped out and disposed of. And that’s it. No wastewater treatment. No filtration. No real cost to HHTF, and no real oversight by the county or state– they will be self-monitoring their discharge. If that weren’t enough, the DEQ acknowledges that water quality will suffer but “that lowering of water quality is necessary to support the identified important social and economic development in the area.” All of this just upstream from the famed Holy Waters stretch of the river. Angler’s and conservation groups asked that a performance bond be required of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm in case of damage to the river, but this request was denied by the county.

But here is what is really frightening. Harrietta Hills Trout Farm, the Michigan Aquaculture Association, the DEQ, MDARD, and the Department of Agriculture see this as a gateway operation to opening up Michigan waters to large-scale aquaculture including open net pens in the Great Lakes.

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