Monday, Feb. 8, began 12 days of arguments regarding a fish farm on a popular Michigan river.
At issue? A plan to raise rainbow trout in a branch of the AuSable River, a well-known fly fishing river in Michigan and the Midwest, according to an article on MLive.
State regulators and a fish hatchery in Grayling want to raise the trout, while the conservation group Anglers of the AuSable and the Sierra Club say the plan would pollute a 9-mile section of the river known as “holy waters” due to its cleanliness and abundant fly hatching and wild trout.
Concerns include the growth of nuisance species and the spread of disease.
“This situation is such a terrible threat to the river that everyone is stepping up,” says Tom Baird, president of Anglers of the AuSable.
The two groups have challenged a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit issued to Harrietta Hills Trout Farm in 2014. The 102-year-old fish hatchery plans to raise up to 300,000 pounds of rainbow trout in eight hatchery “raceways.”
The hatchery contends that it will not have 300,000 pounds of trout in the farm area at one time. In addition, the permit is very strict, according to the hatchery, and operations will be shut down if it “screw(s) up the river.”
The hearing is being conducted more like a trial, with exhibits, witnesses and cross examinations before an administrative state judge in Lansing.
The debate over aquaculture is coming to the forefront in Michigan. Commercial fish pens have been proposed for the Great Lakes, which groups such as the Michigan United Conservation Club and the Michigan Environmental Council oppose.
“This all goes back to the idea, which is okay in theory, that we should use our natural resources in Michigan as part of our economic recovery,” Baird says. “We just want it done right and without danger to our waters.”