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FishPass Project, Traverse City

May 8, 2019

On February 12, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Water Resources Division, held a public hearing on the Union Street Dam and FishPass Project proposed by the city of Traverse City. The proposed project includes replacement of the aging Union Street Dam, enhancement and restoration of the Boardman River and streambanks downstream of the dam, and installation of a FishPass facility.

Picture right: View from Union Street Dam looking downstream. 

Replacement of the present Union Street Dam would require removal of the existing spillways and earthen embankment, construction of a new 100-foot-wide arched labyrinth spillway, a 400-foot-long fish channel, a pedestrian bridge, over 400 feet of stream channel downstream, and other shoreline amenities that will include kayak/canoe portages.  No drawdown of Boardman Lake is proposed.  

FishPass involves the construction of a state-of-the-art fish passage structure and research facility in the Boardman River, which could be used as a model for the Great Lakes.  A key component of the FishPass Project will be to evaluate cutting edge methods for sea lamprey control that are more effective than current methods, while still allowing native fish spawning runs to occur, unhindered by traditional chemical or physical barriers.  Migration control methods to be researched as part of FishPass might include water velocity barriers, light guidance, video shape recognition, chemosensory methods, ultrasound, bubble barriers alarm cues, and eel traps.  

The FishPass Project configuration, as proposed in the application, was developed after consultation with a variety of organizations and interest groups between 2016 and 2018, including the city of Traverse City, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, and various academics.  

Artist rendering of proposed FishPass facility

Picture Left: Artist rendering of proposed FishPass facility. 

The Union Street Dam reconstruction is the last step in the largest river restoration project in Michigan’s history. The removal of the Brown Bridge, Boardman, and Sabin dams upstream on the Boardman River have restored more than three river miles of native cold-water fisheries habitat, more than 250 acres of wetlands, and nearly 60 acres of upland habitat.    

The public comment period on the FishPass Project application ended on February 22. EGLE Water Resources Division will be considering the application and public comments received to evaluate the impact of the proposed project on the Union Street Dam, the Boardman River, and its associated floodplains.

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