Anglers of the Au Sable asks Gov. Snyder to order inspection of hatchery that may be spreading invasive species

Tom Baird

President

Anglers of the Au Sable

Via email at tbairdo@aol.com

 

The Honorable Rick Snyder

Governor of the State of Michigan

P.O. Box 30013

Lansing, MI 48909

 

Sept. 6, 2016

 

Dear Gov. Snyder,

I am writing to ask that you order state agencies to immediately investigate whether the Grayling Fish Hatchery, recently licensed as a fish farm by state agencies, is responsible for the introduction of an invasive species, the New Zealand Mud Snail, into the Au Sable River system.

Anglers of the Au Sable is a conservation and sporting group focused on preserving and enhancing the Au Sable River. We have long been a guardian of the Au Sable. We take very seriously our responsibility of protecting this world-renown fishery, and have worked with – and sometimes against – state agencies over the last 30 years to ensure that it will continue to be a special place in our state for those who enjoy nature, solitude, recreation – and fishing for its wild trout.

We are now engaged in litigation over use of the Grayling Fish Hatchery as a commercial fish farm under the management of Harriett Hills-Grayling. We are contesting the permit issued by the Department of Environmental Quality to allow it to operate as a flow through facility with minimal pollution abatement as it moves from 20,000 pounds of fish production annually to a possible 300,000 pounds. That legal battle is now before an administrative law judge, and will be moving to the director of the DEQ for a final decision later this year or early in 2017.

In the meantime, we have discovered that a new invasive species has been found in the river in recent months. A well-known aquatic biologist under retainer by Anglers first found the New Zealand Mud Snail directly downriver from the hatchery in the East Branch of Au Sable. The Department of Natural Resources agrees that this fast-spreading species has now been found in other locations.

Our experts advise that the hatchery may have been the source of the invasive New Zealand Mud Snail now in the river – and may spread the snail into other waters as the hatchery operator distributes fish around the state.

We have asked officials the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources to inspect the hatchery and its fish. To date, they have told us they have no plans to do so. We find this completely baffling, and totally irresponsible. It’s as if they don’t want to know what is going on in this hatchery.

 

We believe the agencies are potentially creating a scenario that may threaten more of our state’s cold water resources due to the risk of spreading disease vectors throughout the state. Fish diseases are often first discovered in fish farms suggesting they may be the entry points for many diseases.

One of our major concerns is that the New Zealand mud snail may not be the only invasive species associated with this recent discovery. Other organisms commonly associated with the New Zealand mud snail may now be in the Au Sable River system.

The Harrietta Hills-Grayling fish factory has been getting special state treatment for some time. Permission to operate the factory was granted by the DNR despite statutory and deed restrictions limiting use of the property to public recreation and museum purposes. The DEQ issued a pollution discharge permit which falls far short of protecting the river from pollution, algae growth, escapement and disease. Your own Water Strategy has noted the negative impact of flow-through hatcheries on waterways, and indicated a strong preference for recirculating water systems. And we know you have expressed strong concerns about invasive species.

We ask you to immediately order the appropriate state agencies to take action to gain entry into the fish farm, test the fish, examine the facility, and determine if it is contaminated. If so, we recommend that the fish not be transported to other locations.

Thank you for any action you can take on this important issue. We know of your commitment to the state’s natural resources, and hope you will move forward to protect the Au Sable River, one of the crown jewels of Michigan.

Sincerely,

 

Tom Baird

President

 

CC:

Keith Creagh, Director, Department of Natural Resources

Jamie Clover Adams, Director, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Heidi Grether, Director, Department of Environmental Quality

Jim Dexter, Chief, DNR Fisheries Division

James Averill, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development State Veterinarian

 

P.S. We would love to get you on the river for a chance to float the river and catch one of its many trout – and then to release it back into the water for others to enjoy. We are certain that a day on this outstanding waterway will help you understand why so many of us are so committed to its protection and enhancement. Just let me know!