U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint, announced introduction of legislation intended to prevent development of for-profit fish farms in the Great Lakes and connecting rivers. It may not be in time to help with our fight against the fish factory the state is allowing to pollute the Au Sable, but it’s a good step to prevent further pollution by fish farms in critical waters. Anglers President Tom Baird endorsed the effort on our behalf.
Anglers of the Au Sable plans to challenge a recommendation by a state administrative law judge issued Feb. 1 requiring some alterations to a Department of Environmental Quality permit issued to a fish farm in Grayling, but still allowing pollution of the Au Sable River.
“While the judge did call for additional monitoring of the river, and he mandated some minor improvements at the Grayling Fish Hatchery, his ruling still allows fish feces, excess food and escaped farm trout to continue polluting this pristine cold water resource,” said Tom Baird, president of Anglers of the Au Sable, an organization formed to protect the river. “The fish farm will still use the river as its sewer, and that should be unacceptable to all who use and live on this outstanding waterway. We will ask DEQ Director Heidi Grether to reject this permit completely and restore common sense to this situation.”
Read the entire AotA press release HERE.
Have you seen these bills? A little scary? We think so to.
Michigan Public Land Management At Risk – Calls and Letters Are Needed NOW! Stop Michigan Senate bills 39 & 40
These bills represent the most significant legislative intervention in public land management in the State’s history. These provisions include:
- The potential forced opening of our few remaining special management areas to motorized vehicles
- Increased timber harvest to levels which may be in conflict with publicly-adopted sustainable forest management plans
- Calls for the elimination of some habitat management activities which benefit both game and non-game wildlife species
- Transfers authority for strategic public land decisions in most areas of northern Michigan to a small number of local officials
- Requires accelerated and preferential sales of public land to adjacent private landowners, including lands which are NOT designated as surplus
- Reduced application fees for the private acquisition of public land or easements to levels which are well below the DNR’s cost of application review and administration
- Prohibits the DNR from rejecting even flawed real estate appraisals involving the State sale of public lands
- Prohibits public land management activities which are intended to preserve biological diversity
- Requires the development of new strategic land plans to facilitate these policies in spite of the fact that the DNR’s 2013 plan has never been legislatively approved or even formally considered
These proposed requirements collectively represent a significant diversion of DNR field staff time and resources away from the management of our forests, fisheries and wildlife. Don’t take our word for these provisions, here’s the bill analysis from the Senate Fiscal agency.
Please call or write Governor Rick Snyder (517-373-3400), State House Natural Resource Committee members and your District House Representative and voice your opposition to Senate Bills 39 & 40. (see links below); also, please call the DNR Administrative offices (517-284-6367) and ask them to oppose SB-39 & 40.
Gov. Snyder Contact link: http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-57827-267869–,00.html
House Rep. Contact Link: http://house.michigan.gov/mhrpublic/frmRepList.aspx
Coalition to Stop MI Senate Bills 39 & 40
Thank you to all that wrote to the MDNR regarding the New Zealand Mudsnail issue. If you did you likely received the following email from them in response.
If you have already read Mr. Dexter’s email and would like to see Pres. Baird’s response please scroll down.
November 14, 2016
James Dexter, Fisheries Chief
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
525 West Allegan
Lansing, MI 48933
Re: New Zealand Mudsnail Response – Au Sable River
Dear Chief Dexter:
I am writing in response to your recent email communication regarding New Zealand mudsnails in the Au Sable River. I write to offer several clarifications to the DNR and the other quality of life agencies. The Anglers of the Au Sable will go the extra mile to educate anglers and others about invasive species, wader washing and the importance of other measures. But in this case, we believe that the QOL group’s handling if the Grayling fish farm, especially the snail issue, has been woefully inadequate.
You used the term “hollow and disingenuous” to describe our expressions of concern and our calls for a strong and speedy response to the discovery of NZMS just downstream from the fish farm. Respectfully, we submit that the most hollow and disingenuous statement in this entire affair is to continue to claim that the state is vigorously protecting the Au Sable River. To review: 1) the DNR made this entire project possible when it illegally waived its right to enforce statutory use restrictions on the hatchery and allowed an industrial fish farm, 2) the DEQ issued a pollution discharge permit allowing the river to be used as the farm’s private sewer, 3) the DNR has openly acknowledged that low-tech aquaculture facilities like the Grayling fish farm are a prime threat for the spread of NZMS, but 4) when notified of discovery of the NZMS in the river, refused to inspect the fish farm and instead blamed anglers as the probable cause of the infestation.
In early June, a scientist we retain discovered NZMS in the East Branch of the Au Sable. He determined that the snails were directly below the fish farm – and only below the fish farm – not upstream, and not further downstream. Anyone can see that a possible source of the infestation was the fish farm. This was reported to DNR and DEQ immediately.
Standard operating procedure in such cases is to do an immediate survey to assess the source and extent of the infestation, and to determine if emergency measures can be deployed. We asked that you inspect the fish farm. You said the owner wouldn’t let you! We asked that you have the Attorney General obtain a warrant. To our dismay, you refused to do so, saying you wanted to “work with” the owner to find a “mutually agreeable third party” to survey the fish farm. In the end, that never happened, either. Months went by. The snails spread upstream and further downstream from the fish farm. It is now probably impossible to determine if the fish farm was the source of the snails, and it is impossible to treat the river to eradicate them. Four months later there was an inspection and, no surprise, NZMS were found in the facility.
Regarding your eagerness to blame wading anglers for the snails, we note the snails were only found directly below the fish farm. There is very little public access there. Very few, if any, anglers fish there. Have you considered how infinitesimally small the probability is that any angler 1) came to the Au Sable from another watershed, 2) which was already infested with NZMS, 3) which were on the angler’s waders, and 4) chose this inaccessible and deserted stretch of the East Branch as their best fishing location?
Worst, after all your protestations of concern for the waters of our state, you have concocted a scheme where the fish farm will be allowed to transport potentially infected fish for stocking in other waters The NZMS is asexual. It only takes one snail, in one fish, to start a new population. You say this protocol creates a “low likelihood” that the farm trout will forage on snails before shipment. We have been made aware of studies that show even recently fed fish may forage and ingest snails, and that using fresh water for transport might not work. Thus, there is a “definite likelihood” that fish will be shipped after ingesting snails.
Anglers of the Au Sable has built wader wash stations and distributed them to local shops. We have sent educational material to our members and posted it on the Internet. In cooperation with MGFCTU, we worked with our communications firm and biologists to draft, print and post signs warning of the dangers. Similar handouts were placed in local stores, too. This was all done in less than a week. In the meantime, has the DNR contacted local businesses, organizations and governmental agencies to warn of the problem and enlist their participation in educating the public?
We will always vigilantly protect the Au Sable River system. That is the reason we exist. We prefer, as always, to do so in full partnership with the DNR and other state agencies. We will also call it like we see it, back up our conclusions with science, and unfortunately and too often, fight tooth and nail against state agency decisions and actions which put the river at risk. This is one of those times. The DNR and other state agencies simply didn’t do the job on this one. You permitted an ill-conceived project in the finest trout stream east of the Mississippi, and then you dawdled in the face of a real threat. You only entered the fish farm when the owner “invited” you to do so. What kind of vigilance is that? The state can claim that it will “do all it can” to preserve the Au Sable as a “natural resources jewel,” but its actions in this instance are to the contrary.
Thomas A Baird, President
Anglers of the Au Sable
The Mud Snail, the State of Michigan, and the Au Sable Fish Farm…a timeline.
June 6, 2016. Dr. Mark Luttenton discovered mud snails directly below (and at that time ONLY directly below) the hatchery during a routine water quality inspection. AotA notifies DNR and DEQ immediately. AotA and TU groups post NZMS info signs at access points to educate anglers and boaters on how not to spread the snails.
DNR releases State of Michigan’s Status and Strategy for New Zealand Mudsnail Management WHICH STATES: “Managing potential pathways of introduction for the New Zealand mudsnail is essential in preventing dispersal into new waterways. Pathway specific management plans include close visual inspection and the treatment of fish hatcheries and aquaculture operations.” They did not inspect the hatchery.
July 29, 2016. Nearly two months later the DNR sent Anglers their first response essentially blaming anglers for the spread of the mud snails. Also noted in this response is the hatchery operator’s refusal of admittance to state agencies to do testing of the facility for NZMS.
In late August, DNR fisheries biologists write in a draft trout management plan: “Improperly operated fish hatcheries have the potential to harm coldwater streams and their aquatic communities in a number of ways….Stocking of hatchery fish can serve as a vector for aquatic invasive species such as the New Zealand mud snail, unless appropriate measures are taken to prevent their spread… Many of the hatchery threats identified above are exacerbated in poorly designed flow-through systems” (like the Grayling hatchery). Still no inspection. The plan in place to prevent spread to other waterways in the state via stocking is questionable and likely to fail according to experts.
Sept 6, 2016. AotA sends letter to Governor Snyder asking for Snyder to order state agencies to do the required testing at the hatchery.
Sept 14, 2016. Gongwer publishes article with this opening paragraph: “The Department of Natural Resources agrees that the Grayling Fish Hatchery could be a source of invasive snails and has been working with the owners to prevent further transport, officials said late Tuesday.”
Sept 28, 2016. DNR director Keith Creagh sent a letter to AotA stating: “We are making arrangements to inspect the hatchery. We are planning to have representatives of all three QOL agencies onsite to verify that appropriate measures are being implemented to reduce the risk of NZMS movement and to test for the presence of snails inside the hatchery.”
Oct. 4, 2016. DNR press release stating they have inspected the hatchery. See below:
Anglers of the Au Sable
Via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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!
“Anglers of the Au Sable contracted GVSU to conduct this study on the Mainstream and North Branch of the Au Sable during the Summer and Fall of 2014. 17 brook trout were tracked in an effort to better understand their use of habitat in the Au Sable system and to better inform ongoing habitat improvement projects. This study would not have been possible without the generous funding that Anglers of the Au Sable received from our partners in conservation: Mason Griffith Founders Chapter TU, Headwaters Chapter TU, Challenge Chapter TU, Michigan Fly Fishing Club, International Federation of Fly Fishers, and Patagonia Incorporated. Thank you all so much for your support!”
Click the link below to read the full report.
Dr. Mark Luttenton of Grand Valley St. University and a team of experts did some field work recently in response to the recent mud snail discovery below the Grayling Hatchery. Please read Mark’s report below. The report was sent to Anglers President, Tom Baird among others from MITU, TU Mason Griffith chapter, MDNR, and MDEQ.
Greetings,A group of 6 (Terry L, Steve S, Jim W, Austin (works with Steve), Justin (works with me), and myself) surveyed four additional locations for mud snails on Sunday, they included: Gates Lodge, Burton’s Landing, Grayling Park, and just upstream of North Down River Road. Sites previously surveyed are: behind the hospital, the Main Branch below the East Branch confluence, the Main Branch above the East Branch confluence, between the I-75 bridge and Wilcox Bridge Rd., immediately below the hatchery, and halfway between the hospital site and the confluence with the Main Branch.The Main Branch sample sites survey on Sunday were selected because they are popular access points for fishing and canoeing/kayaking. We spent approximately 40 minutes at each site and sampled the majority of habitat types at each location. This gave us approximately 240 minutes of effort at each site. We did not find mud snails in any of our collections on Sunday.Thus far, we have only found mud snails immediately below the hatchery, behind the hospital, and halfway between the hospital site and the confluence with the Main Branch. The highest densities appear to be associated with the sites that are farthest upstream.I have also received a note back from Joe Holumzki at USGS in Menlo Park, CA. Joe worked on mudsnails in NZ. Here is his response;“Terry Short and I looked at the snails you sent. We think they’re Potamopyrgus antipodarum, the NZ mudsnail, smooth-shelled morph. The snails you sent are nearly morphologically identical to an invasive population I’ve sampled in Pilarcito Creek on the coast here in CA.”Please let me know if you have any questions,Cheers,MarkMark R. Luttenton, Ph.D.Associate Dean of the Graduate SchoolProfessor of BiologyGrand Valley State University306 C DeVos Center401 W. Fulton StreetGrand Rapids, MI 49504
New Zealand Mud Snails Documented In The Au Sable River
New Zealand Mud snails have been discovered in the East Branch of the Au Sable River, just downstream of the Harrietta Hills Trout Farm – Grayling. These invasive snails can move throughout a system and damage the fishery.
On June 6, 2016 a regional EPA lab confirmed that the snails discovered were indeed New Zealand Mud Snails. Representatives from Anglers of the Au Sable and Mason-Griffith Founders Chapter of TU will assist Dr. Mark Luttenton of Grand Valley State University, who first found the snails during routine sediment sampling, in immediately conducting additional sampling to determine if mud snails are found in any other locations of the upper Au Sable River system.
What should anglers do?
The section of river downstream of the fish farm to the confluence with the mainstem Au Sable is now confirmed infected. We encourage anglers and others to avoid fishing or wading in this section of river.
All anglers fishing anywhere in the Au Sable or nearby rivers, should take great care to prevent the spread of this invasive species.
- Gear should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between uses.
- Use a stiff brush to remove visible snails from wading shoes and waders, boats, anchors, ropes, and landing nets. Ensure that all mud and debris is removed. Take care to clean around gravel guards on waders.
- Several chemicals have been found effective for killing these snails. One is full strength Formula 409 cleaner. Equipment should be soaked in this solution for a minimum of 10 minutes, then thoroughly rinsed with clean water and allowed to dry.
- Snails can live for many days out of water so inspect wading boots inside and out thoroughly after cleaning.
- It may also be time to reconsider using felt soles. They can pick up and hold more snails and are more difficult to clean and disinfect effectively.
If we all follow these simple precautions we may be able to help stop or at least slow the progression of this invasive species.
Mud snail identification
The New Zealand Mud snails are small, up to 1/8” in length (up to 50 can fit on the face of a dime). They range from light brown to black in color; have 5-6 whorls, of gradually increasing size from one end to the other, and are right-handed snails (meaning when held with the small tip upward, the opening should face you to your right side). They reproduce prolifically and can reproduce asexually meaning a single specimen can result in thousands of offspring.
If you think you have found a New Zealand Mud Snail contact:
Seth Herbst, DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator email@example.com
Bill Keiper, DEQ Aquatic Invasive Species Biologist firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer Brings Warm Water On The Trophy Run
To veteran fishers of the Au Sable taking the 70 Degree Pledge has become a regular occurrence, which varies in necessity based on the summer heat.
The idea is a simple one: if the river water temperature is 70 degrees or more for an extended time then catch-and-release for trout is impractical. Salmonids, especially rainbow and brook trout, cannot handle the stress of being hooked, fought, and handled so the mortality rates skyrocket. More information of this dynamic, including supporting research, can be found at http://www.70degreepledge.org/ – an AOTA sanctioned website.
So each year as we approach those Dog Days, Anglers makes a point of reminded fishers about this important practice. If we want catch-and-release to remain a viable practice then we must do it properly. Taking the 70 Degree Pledge is part of that effort. So start checking these two websites through early September:
Oh, and one more thing, learn more about proper catch-and-release at this website http://www.catch-n-release.org/– another AOTA sanctioned website.
Taking care of a world-class trout fishery includes all matters of commitment from court cases to cleanups to simple common sense. Following the 70 Pledge and the suggestions from Catch-N-Release.Org are two cost effective methods for nurturing the fishery in the river we all love.