This compilation is an attempt to give you a road map of the Anglers’ accomplishments and occasional setbacks. We have attempted to supply enough information, but we’re sure—having had to canvas over 20 years of board meeting minutes and newsletters from our origins, we haven’t covered everything and indeed have missed some items completely.
If we left out a specific milestone, please accept our apologies; it was not intentional. Also, many board members and members were directly responsible for the achievements you’ll read below, however, their specific names are not listed.
Many issues or projects have their own webpage. Please visit that page directly.
In the past years, the Anglers have been involved with more than 90 projects. Here are summaries of selected projects that have been completed.
Catch and Release
One of the first causes of the Anglers was the No Kill, or Catch and Release, regulations on the mainstream’s Holy Water stretch as well as four miles of the South Branch. Led by Jim Schramm, the Anglers used legal and diplomatic channels to press for catch-and-release regulations beginning in 1986.
1985 – Bowing to pressure from a Grayling area citizens group, The Committee to Oppose Mandatory Catch & Release, Circuit Court Judge Alton Davis (Grayling) issues a temporary injunction of the Holy Water catch & release regulation. Michigan Natural Resources Commission directs the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) to designate the Holy Water Stretch of Au Sable Mainstream as catch and release.
May 1986 – Rusty Gates, proprietor of Gates Au Sable Lodge, begins building a mailing list from his lodge guests and patrons of his fly shop to organize against the catch & release opposition group.
March 8, 1987 – Judge Davis makes the injunction on catch & release permanent. Jim Schramm from the Anglers and an attorney for the MNRC begin an appeal strategy.
November 1988 – Michigan Court of Appeals upholds catch and release regulations for Mainstream, a huge victory for the Anglers. The new regulation went into effect April 1989.
July 1990 – Anglers earmark $5,000 for removal of Salling Dam with the hope of lowering the mean water temperatures in the Mainstream. Anglers receive corporate contributions from Patagonia and Orvis.
December 2004 – Mill Pond Dam – Contractors are on site and will work through the winter months on a draw down structure to slowly decrease the stump pond 12 inches over time. Over 80% of the pond is less than a foot deep and acts as a solar collector, artificially heating the water released to the river during the warm summer months.
March 2005 – Mill Pond Dam – Fish from downstream are now swimming in Frederic because the drawdown structure in place now allows for fish passage. The dam will be slowly lowered over the next 3-5 years.
Beginning in 1988, the Anglers helped sponsor an inland fisheries project undertaken by the Michigan Institute for Fisheries Research in association with the University of Michigan. Rick Clark was the primary advisor of the student (Dave Clapp) who did the first telemetry study. The project involved electroshocking and then implanting radio transmitters in adult brown trout in the 4-mile no-kill section of the South Branch. This would permit radio telemetry tracking of the moving of the study population through the course of two years. There were several significant findings as a result of this research. Key among these is that there is significant upstream/downstream migration of adult brown trout in the South Branch. The fish you might catch near Daisy Bend in June may have spent its early spring six miles upstream near Roscommon. Clapp found that very large trout moved long distances, at least part of the time. You also might want to look at research report 1998, which looked at movement of more normal sized trout. The quick summary of this study was that smaller trout did not move very much. That is why you don’t hear much about that study.
Oil and Gas Oversight
Unchecked gas and oil exploration has had a profound negative impact on the greater Au Sable region in recent years. The Department of Natural Resources has allegedly mismanaged the regulation of these exploration and production concerns allowing them to virtually run amok in the north woods. Pollution of soil, air (including noise), and ground water has resulted. Development of the Antrim shale natural gas deposits in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan began in earnest in the late 1980s and by 1992 had spread like wildfire through Otsego, Montmorency, Crawford, Oscoda, and Kalkaska Counties. Montmorency was particularly hard hit by the creation of nearly a thousand well pads, hundreds of miles of access roads, and pipeline corridors, as well as numerous pipeline crossings of streams and wetlands.
In 1992, a grassroots organization, the Michigan Environmental Trust Limited (METL), brought suit against some of these companies and the Department of Natural Resources to halt the almost random exploration and digging of test and production wells and running of transport pipelines. The primary issues at hand were: stream sedimentation and forest fragmentation. The Anglers were an intervening party (as was Trout Unlimited) to this law suit which sought to assign blame to numerous exploration and production companies operating in the Antrim Gas Field in the northern lower peninsula. Legal expenses, expert witnesses, environmental consultants and miscellaneous expenses far exceeded $100,000. The Anglers supported this effort financially for several years. More important, director Dick Daane served as the lead plaintiff attorney for METL throughout the three-year legal campaign.
In December 1992, Ingham County Judge Carolyn Stell issued a temporary injunction effective in the five hardest hit counties. The injunction provided that all pipeline stream crossings in those counties were to be made by boring beneath the streambeds rather than by plowing or trenching across the streambed surface. The MDNR was enjoined from issuing permits for pipeline crossings made by means other than streambed boring. At the same time, Judge Stell also ordered the DNR to produce an environmental impact statement (EIS) by June 30, 1993. On that deadline, the MDNR responded with a document which included work by Gaylord Alexander and Andrew Nuhfer supporting the plaintiffs’ contentions that Antrim gas development was a significant source of trout stream pollution by sedimentation. The plaintiffs then moved for judgment on the basis of the EIS but Judge Stell ruled that too many additional factual issues remained unresolved and scheduled the matter for trial on June 6, 1994.
Also proposed was the initiation of a spacing hearing before the Supervisor of Wells seeking a statewide spacing order providing for well density of no more than one well per eighty acres and no less than one well per 160 acres. If such an order is entered, it will not only be effective statewide but will bind producers who are not parties to the litigation and who would thus, without such an order, be free to continue the current forty acre spacing. From the plaintiffs’ perspective, this order will be particularly advantageous since it affords relief broader than could likely have been obtained through direct action by the court.
The DNR, represented by the Attorney General’s Office, refused to agree to an expansion of the stream boring injunction. Accordingly, while negotiations continued on the well spacing issue, METL filed a motion to expand the scope of the stream-crossing injunction to fifteen counties and to make it permanent. This motion was heard by the court as a contested matter on May 19, 1994. On June 1, 1994, the court granted the motion and signed a permanent injunction. At the same time, Judge Stell also signed a consent order addressing the well spacing by ordering the parties to seek a spacing order from the Supervisor of Wells.
In late 1994 a compromise was reached regarding the spacing order: 80 acres per well, far better than the legacy forty acres per well, but short of the targeted 120 acre spacing desired by the plaintiffs. There is now in place a permanent injunction requiring pipeline crossings to be bored beneath the streams in the following counties. Antrim, Crawford, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego, Alpena, Alcona, Benzie, Charlevoix, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Mason, Lake, Roscommon, and Manistee. The practice of trenching stream crossings and releasing sediment responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead trout is judicially banned on a permanent basis. Only if an applicant for a pipeline crossing can demonstrate that a different method is environmentally friendlier or that boring will present an undue hardship, may the MDNR then issue a permit for a crossing by an alternative method. If the plaintiffs disagree with such a DNR decision to issue an alternative permit they may apply to Judge Stell’s court for relief from the MDNR’s decision.
Read Ed McGlinn’s introductory report on the Antrim Gas lawsuit, The Antrim Killing Fields, in The RIVERWATCH – Issue #16, November 1993.
Read plaintiff attorney Dick Daane’s assessment, On the Courthouse Steps: The Antrim Gas Case, in The RIVERWATCH – Issue #18, July 1994.
April 1991 – The Anglers sponsor a writing contest at Grayling High School, the required topic being the Au Sable River. Three winners were selected, each of whom won a Sage rod, Ross reel and Orvis Line.
May 1994 – The Anglers underwrite an MSU graduate biology student for a summer internship to investigate soil erosion at stream crossings of the Au Sable.
May 1995 – Anglers underwrite an Adrian College intern to collect canoeing impact data and conduct water turbidity studies along the Mainstream.
February 1999 – Au Sable River Words Annual Writing Contest launched.
September 2001 – Au Sable River Words, Writing Contest – There are four schools involved at this time, Grayling, Oscoda, Mio and Roscommon. Tess is seeking their full participation, and letters have been sent explaining: The prizes, how it works, why we sponsor this program, and the theme of the competition.