Salted with Sharks

Posts Tagged ‘#salmoncrisis2012’

Dan Benishek at the Sleeping Bear Inn

In Gov't Watch, Open Season, Politics, Uncategorized on January 11, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I hope to stand firm enough to not go backward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck the country’s cause.—Abraham Lincoln

FRANKFORT—At 2 pm Friday afternoon a small group gathered around the congressman from Michigan’s 1st District, Dr. Dan Benishek. Benishek was to have gone on a two-day snowmobile tour with 2nd District rep Bill Huizenga, but the foggy wet weather did not permit. After his stop in Frankfort he was heading to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, his aide said, and the aide pointed out that Benishek had two days before reintroduced a bill to add 32,000 acres to the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

Over coffee in the dining nook of the bar at the Sleeping Bear Inn, Benishek took time to discuss the final days of the 112th Congress and the prospects for consensus-building among House Republicans in the coming weeks and months. This stopoff opportunity was brought to us by Adrian Poulisse, the new chair of the Benzie County Republican Party.

On his fiscal cliff vote to extend the Bush tax cuts to 99% of Americans, for which he had drawn the ire of some of his fellow Republicans, Benishek said he couldn’t feature looking back at missing an opportunity to permanently cut taxes for that many Americans. “How could I run for re-election having voted against the largest tax cut in American history?”

He also mentioned wanting to avoid a 27% cut to doctors’ compensation through Medicaid that would have occurred if we had gone over the cliff, and the Farm Bill, which needed to be passed to avoid the so-called Milk Cliff—the threat by dairy farmers to hike the price of milk up to $8 a gallon if subsidies and drought relief did not come through. The spending cuts portion of the bill—or lack thereof—was indeed problematic, and this was Benishek’s major focus during this meeting.

Pointing out that the National Debt is equal to 42 cents on the dollar, and that the cost of servicing that debt amounts to 7% of monthly revenue, Benishek said he didn’t understand why President Obama couldn’t find a way to cut 7% and cover that expense. Benishek said his office has cut its expenses by 11% in the past two years. Servicing the debt alone is the one of the top five greatest federal expenses, Benishek said.

A couple of members of the public expressed frustration with Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans for what they saw as a failure to unite on this issue and send a clear message to both the public and the White House. Benishek said Boehner tries to lead by consensus, in contrast to the strong-arm style of Nancy Pelosi, and had not managed to gather the support of enough House Republicans—218 of the 233—to develop a “Plan B” in response to the bill passed to them by the Senate at 2 am on January 1.

Benishek said that Boehner hasn’t used committee assignments as a “carrot and stick” to compel votes from members. Benishek said he was ranked 172 in the House for voting with leadership, meaning 171 Republicans voted more often with the party line than he did, and he still got the committee assignments he asked for.

One woman present said she had been pleased to learn Benishek had signed on to the Fair Tax proposal, an across-the-board elimination of income taxes in favor of a point-of-purchase consumption tax.

A couple of people expressed concern about Republicans’ commitment to “stand and fight” for voters and the constitution. Benishek said Republicans had a messaging problem, and that for some reason they hadn’t been able to convey the severity of the debt crisis; the Democrats had been able to convince the public that spending and the accumulation of debt could go on as long as taxes on the wealthy would increase. “People are getting their information in 30 second soundbites,” he said. “It’s up to us to communicate to the people.”

Which is all the harder, Benishek said, when House Republicans were having such a problem reaching consensus. “We have to stand firm,” he said, ” and make it clear we’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without cuts. We have to stand up through the onslaught of bad publicity. In a couple of weeks we have to find a way.”

Just before Benishek had to leave, a brief discussion of the low water situation in the Betsie Bay occurred. Benishek said he had been “struggling” with the problem for the past two years. “I’ve got the most shoreline of any district in the country,” he said. “Some people think the problem is the [outflow from] the St. Clair River. Some people think it’s the drain out of Chicago. Some say evaporation or lack of rain. The Army Corps blames lack of rainfall and says it’s cyclical, and they don’t want to deal with the St. Clair River.”

Benishek said he intended to seek money from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and that he had been working with a congressman from Louisiana on trying to get the fund’s $6 billion to actually be used for Harbor Maintenance. Asked what it was currently being used for, Benishek was vague. “It’s been appropriated for other things. We’re trying to get more of it directed to harbor maintenance.”—Emily Votruba

Betsie River Meeting with Ray Franz

In Breaking, On and off the Apron, Open Season on October 18, 2012 at 10:41 am

A quick update: About 40 people showed up at City Hall for the hastily called meeting with Josh Mills, State rep Ray Franz, and the DNR’s Frank Foster. They assembled discussed possible reasons for the problem we’re experiencing with low water (including the dredging of the St. Clair River) as well as possible funding sources for a dredge or other project, such as narrowing the channel in other ways, to increase the rate of water flow out of the Betsie River. Ray Franz said he is working on a provision to make it easier for the DNR to immediately shut down fishing (eliminating the 21-day posting period) in the event of emergencies such as we experienced in September. Kurt Luedtke discussed various groups and organizations that might be able to come up with funding and said in his experience expecting the Army Corps to fund the project (Franz’s thought) was unrealistic. Most seemed to agree that the fishery is in immediate danger from low water and something should be done soon, but Chris Hettinger and Marcia Stobie both suggested that the river would figure out its new flow given the new conditions and that it might be at best pointless to try to mess with that process. Some present gave interesting insight into the other factors at play besides low lake levels. For example, Reg Manville mentioned that all the 16 posts on the railroad bridge, which were put in when the trail was built, were disrupting the flow and possibly a suspension form of construction would have been better. Lon Busch mentioned the widening of the river mouth that occurred when the M22 bridge was put in, which has slowed the water significantly, as well as the silt still piling up from when the Thompsonville dam blew out in ’86. Kurt mentioned the proliferations of phragmites in the already slowed water.

Besides Franz’s effort to change DNR posting rules for emergencies, the meeting did not end with clear next steps in place.

Officials to Meet about Betsie River

In Breaking, Green Elbertians, On and off the Apron, Open Season on October 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

According to Josh Mills: “There will be a meeting at City Hall on Wednesday (tomorrow), October 17, 2012 ,at 2:30 regarding the status of the Betsie Bay river mouth. The meeting will be facilitated by State Representative Ray Franz and State Representative and MDNR Committee Chair Frank Foster. There is action taking place in Lansing that will possibly generate the support and necessary funding associated with the proper maintenance of the Betsie Bay river mouth. The fishing industry and health of Betsie Bay play a vital role toward sustaining our Benzie County economy.”

Elberta Village President Seeks Betsie Dredge

In On and off the Apron, Open Season on September 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm

By Emily Votruba

This year’s salmon run may or may not be salvageable now, says Elberta Village president Reg Manville, but dredging will be necessary to avert the next possible low-water casualty: the spring steelhead run.

The Alert spoke with Manville Tuesday night by phone. Manville also made a statement on the subject at last night’s Village council meeting.

“I appreciate the grassroots involvement. But what we have to do is get funding to dredge. If we have another winter like we did last year with very little snowfall and no runoff, what I’m concerned about more now are the steelhead, which run in the spring.

“If you have a normal winter, ice forms over the water and keeps the water from evaporating, but the last few winters, especially last year, we’ve had hardly any ice at all. We have a good chance of being at an all-time low [for Lake Michigan and Betsie Bay water level].

According to the Record-Patriot, Lake Michigan on Saturday, September 15, was at 577.5 feet. The record low, in 1964, was 576.05 feet. The recorded low for the year 2012 so far was in February, at 576.71 feet, a fraction of an inch shy of the overall record.

Salmon Thrown Off Course by Low Water, Sand Bar Obstacles

“The natural channel the fish would use to come through the bay and up the river to spawn is on the left side, the Elberta side. It starts at the lighthouse, goes down our side, heads about halfway down our pier, then heads to our stubby, goes through our two deepwater ports, where the fish tend to congregate. From there they run up past our development [the Elberta Land Holding Company property], past the dockominiums and the North Star Marina where we have the old poles there sticking out of the water, and up the old channel to our [Mini Pond] marina. At North Star Marina at about the third pole there was an old channel that went off to the right and over to the bridge.

“What’s happened is, and this is the first year this has ever happened, the fish are coming up both sides [of the bay]. Usually the fish did not come up the right side, but East Shore Marina dredged over there a few years ago because their charter boats were having trouble getting out. So now there is a channel over there and it looks about 50/50, half the fish are coming from the right and half from the left.

“In order to make a viable channel you have to figure out which of these two channels you want to enlarge, and then in turn you have to block the other channel. So there’s a lot more to this than people understand.

The Dredging Option

“Kurt [Luedtke, of Luedtke Engineering] told me that even if magically we had the funds appear, it would still take him time to get his equipment here, and the project would take four or five days. The biggest problem with the dredging is getting rid of the muck and the sand that you dredge, because that cannot be stored on site. It has to be trucked off, because there are contaminants in that. It’s a long process. You’ve got two or three different procedures you have to go through with the EPA, the DNR— there’s a lot of red tape involved.

“Without any money there’s not a whole lot we can do. We might be able to do something right now, instead of having a major dredge. We could get a backhoe and a barge and do a temporary dredge in there, but there’s no way that channel would stay open. It would be more of a cosmetic thing.”

Manville said an adequate dredge operation would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. He described the procedure Luedtke performed on the Elberta marina a few years ago. “They sucked it out in huge pipes and they had a big bladder that sat on the shore between the North Star Marina and the Mayfair. Then they let the dredged material dry up a bit and then they trucked it out.”

Reg said a meeting will be held next week with Josh Mills (Frankfort City superintendent) and Luedtke Engineering, to which the public would be invited.

The Economic Threat

“There’s a misconception that there are no fish in the river. There are fish getting up. The DNR thinks there’s enough fish to have a successful run. There may not be as many as there have been in the past, but it’s not like in 2015 there will be no fish in the river. If that happened, then you’re talking about charter boats, motels, I mean the whole community that relies on that type of business would be shut down.”

Reg referred to the salmon population crash in Lake Huron. “When the salmon fishery crashed over there it was a huge economic disaster. This year here will be touch and go [for the salmon] but we have to look down the road and not let this happen to the steelhead.”

“People don’t realize that our river doesn’t get planted. Everything that goes up the Betsie is a natural spawned fish.  The salmon run will continue into October but the ban will help because people out in the bay are spooking the fish. Today because of the water and the recent rainfall, and the west wind, the volume of water in our bay is up. Fish were running the river today.

“I asked Josh [Mills] and the [unspecified] others if there was any emergency funding for things like this and they just shrugged their shoulders. It’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t something we could tap into. We’ll try to coordinate a group to brainstorm a solution. It’s good that people are concerned. Sometimes I think that fishermen are the only ones who really worry about it.

“Josh wants to captivate the energy that we have now. You could get 100 people out there with shovels but the actual good it would do would be barely noticeable. It just fills right back in. Way back in August when I started noticing this was happening and that it was going to be a problem I talked to Kurt and asked if it was a federal deal or a state deal and he said it’s a state deal, the state would have to tap into federal funds. There’s no way either of our communities have the money for this.

“There’s no easy solution except for money. Maybe if Obama wins again he’ll pour more money into the Great Lakes.”

The Big Picture

“On a grander scale, what the DNR is trying to do is control the population of the predator fish in Lake Michigan because our feedstock, the alewives, are down, and they’re trying to figure out what happened in Lake Huron [why the alewife population died off there].

“The DNR have decreased the plantings in areas where they plant, but they have no idea in a natural river like ours what goes in and what goes out. The way they look at it, this [dieoff] might even be a good thing  because the lake is overpopulated.

What Fishing Means to Elberta

“If you look at the number of people who fish off our deepwater port—it’s just unbelievable. On a normal day down there from the middle of August to now, if you went down there at six o’clock in the morning you would have a hard time finding a spot to fish. We have 100 to 150 people fishing there through the day. It brings people into our village this time of year. It’ll be that way all the way till the road access to the pier gets impassible.”

The Alert had interviewed a few fishermen over Labor Day weekend about whether or not it would b reasonable for the Village to charge for access from the Mini-Pond Marina. The fishermen, who were from out of state, said that without improvements, like paving or a cleaning station, access should be free.

“That’s how we ran the marina before the water got too low to make it viable for a decent-size boat to get out there,” said Manville. “We had an honor-system box there. A long time ago when the marina was really viable the marina was manned just like it’s manned in Frankfort, with a cleaning station. The big thing with the cleaning station is you have to have water, and now you’re talking some major costs.”

When was the last time there was a charge down there or a cleaning station?

“When I first started living here full-time, in ’97, the [honor-system] box might have still been there. You could still get a boat out then. It needed to be dredged at that time and of course the Village doesn’t even have the matching funds to get a grant to dredge that out.”

Manville hadn’t heard about Adrian Poulisse and Dennis Holcombe’s effort to secure permits for dredging and/or sandbagging to raise water levels. According to an e-mail from Holcombe the Alert received yesterday, which was sent to members of the Gilmore Township board as well as the Village Clerk and Treasurer, Josh Mills submitted a joint application to the MDEQ and US Army Corps of Engineers on September 15 for permission to place sandbags at the mouth of the Betsie. Holcombe recommended that the two municipalities hold a joint meeting to discuss the problem and also that officials write in to MDEQ and USCOE in support of the grassroots sandbagging effort.

Manville said he would let the Alert know of any meetings held next week.

DNR Officer from TC Arrives at Betsie Salmon Scene, Shoos Away Diggers

In Breaking, On and off the Apron, Open Season on September 17, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Story by Emily Votruba   Photos by Chip Marks

Sergeant Robert Torres of the Traverse City DNR enforcement office arrived at the mouth of the Betsie River this evening at about 5:30.

He had been called to the scene by reports of the efforts of citizens to save the fish as well as the snagging and bagging of fish struggling through the shallow water.

Torres spoke with the Alert after he left he scene. He could not comment on whether he had written any tickets. “Compared to last week when there was 50 to 100 people out there, there was hardly anybody tonight. There was lots of lawfully caught fish, hooked in the mouth. There was maybe six people out there. Whether it was word of mouth, or people have gone back downstate, that’s what we want—for people to stay out of there.

“Fisheries writes the rules, plants fish, and manages the fish population of Michigan. The law division enforces the laws they pass. Most of the time when there’s a law change they seek our input on whether or not it’s enforceable. We’ve been in touch with them since the situation came to our attention through the local anglers about the low water levels. We’ve had a lot of good input from citizens as far as solutions, whether it was closure, or dredging, but the DNR doesn’t regulate dredging. That’s the Army Corps and DEQ, totally different entities, one federal, one state. You need to get a hold of the proper entity you can’t just take it upon yourself to do that.

“But as far as the fish go, to protect them, to get them to go up—that’s what we deal with.” And there are fish in the river, he said. “We’ve talked to anglers. They’ve been catching them.

“Last year we had the biggest fish run in memory. It was a phenomenal run that started in August and lasted all the way to mid-October. Anglers are panicking because they’re not seeing all the fish they did last year. But they got to remember that last year we had the biggest fish run ever; number two, water levels are down to their lowest since 1961, temperatures have been high, with a mild winter, so water temperatures have been up and fish don’t run in hot water. The majority of fish are still being caught by boats out in Lake Michigan. It’s not a red alert for Fisheries because the majority of fish are still probably going to come in. They may come in before October 10 [when the Bay fishing ban is expected to take effect], they may come in after, we can’t say, but what we can say is that as long as people are in Betsie Bay, kicking around, that is going to impact fish getting up the river because when it’s ankle deep as opposed to thigh to waist deep, fish spook easily. Instead of working hard to get up there, they’re turning around and beaching themselves. That’s why this emergency closure is going into effect. Some anglers will voluntarily stay out because they realize the importance of letting the fish go and others will say, well, it’s my only trip up here… That’s the problem. We can’t cure certain mentalities.”

The Alert asked whether there’d be any kind of DNR presence for the next few days or weeks to stop the snagging. “If there’s illegal activity going on, people should call the RAP line and report it. There’s a lot of different seasons now, bears and small game, so we’re getting complaints all over the place, so I can’t say there’ll be an officer there 24-7. As we can we’ll go through there. I’m hoping the Village of Elberta will cooperate and post the press release when it comes out so that people will be able to see it and read it. As with any new law there’s a posting period that has to occur. When it’s enforceable [on October 10], that’s when all the official signs from Fisheries will go out.” The press release is posted on the DNR website here.

As this post went up, rain fell steadily and more was forecasted for the rest of the week.

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Law Enforcement Arrives at Betsie Bay to Close Fishery at Mouth of River

In On and off the Apron, Open Season, Uncategorized on September 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm

At about 5:15 Monday, the Alert got word from county commissioner Don Tanner that law enforcement officials were headed to the crowded scene at the east end of Betsie Bay to put a stop to both the fish saving and fish snagging taking place there.

Per the DNR’s September 14 press release, the area to be closed to fishing lies between the red lines in the image below.

Tanner said Justin Vanderlinde, Benzie County’s game warden, said the 21-day waiting period for the fishing closure to take effect was under review.

“The biggest problem that Justin has is that people are not listening to them. So they’re sending law enforcement over there to put a stop to all this.” A relative of Don Tanner’s was fishing in a boat Friday and said, “I’m down there at O-dark-thirty and here comes a bunch of guys with nothing but landing nets, no fishing poles at all. They’re taking stringers of fish out of there. That kind of crap needs to stop.”

“The whole issue of having to wait 21 days to issue an order from the director is under review. If nothing else, the benefit from this whole exercise will be that they might walk out of this with the ability to issue an immediate order. In other states, like Alaska, if they see a problem, they shut it down right now. They don’t wait for nothing,” Tanner said.

On the scene at 5:34, Chip Marks handed the phone to “Jack,” a concerned citizen who was admonished by the officer. “I’m a guy with a shovel. Justin’s not here, he’s on another call, so they sent someone down here from Traverse City. He’s ordered us to cease and desist. He said he could cite us but he’s not going to, but don’t be surprised if someone comes knocking on our door.

“I’m saddened by this situation.  A couple of community members come out here and try to do something for the economy, the ecology, and here we’re ordered to shut down because of bureaucracy and red tape, I don’t know. I’m a local business owner, everybody’s calling in and nothing’s happening. I came down here to help keep the fish from beaching themselves so they can get into the river and spawn, and now we’re being ordered to quit.”

Jack said he hadn’t seen any fishermen being cited yet. There were still several people standing in the shallows undertaking what might be described as fishing. “There’s not as many [fisherman] as there was,” Jack said.

Chip Marks said, “If they had five more guys and they were allowed to finish this thing, it would be great. The fish are flying through where they’ve improved the channel.”

Area the DNR is closing to fishing because of the low-water threat to the salmon spawn season.

Sandbagging the Bay

In Breaking, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Uncategorized on September 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Since the word began to get out last Thursday about the potential salmon spawn crisis, a number of ideas have emerged to deal with the problem.

The DNR has already been inundated with phone calls from concerned fishermen and business owners. As the Alert reported Friday, Fisheries Management is issuing a directive to implement a partial fishing ban on the bay, beginning at the bridge and covering the main channel through the east end of the bay, where the salmon are struggling to make their way in very low water. The Alert has not been able to confirm the exact perimeter of the ban area, but fishing is not and will not be banned up in the actual river. Because it takes 21 days for the DNR’s order to take effect (in other words, for them to issue tickets), the office is asking fishermen to voluntarily abstain from fishing in this compromised area.

In the meantime, Adrian Poulisse and Dennis Holcombe, both members of local planning commissions, have spearheaded a plan to recruit volunteers to sandbag in the bay, with the idea of raising the water level in the main channel of the salmon run. Poulisse said by phone today that he was waiting for the DNR’s permission and for DNR personnel to become available to supervise this effort. He asks that citizen call the DNR and express their concern so that an officer will come to the scene and the sandbagging can begin. He would also like volunteers to collect feed bags or other nontoxic material out of which sandbags can be fashioned. If you are interested in participating, you can call Poulisse at 231-835-0738.

Another idea, dredging a channel, would require an Army Corps of Engineers permit. Poulisse said he had spoken with an Army Corps officer in Detroit and with Josh Mills, Frankfort City Superintendent, about speeding up the permit process, which would normally take weeks.

Dredging is expensive, potentially very disruptive to the ecosystem, and might not work for long, if at all. As the Alert reported Friday, the DNR’s Mark Tonello does not consider dredging to be an option.

Kyle Gilbert of Big Bob’s Up North Outfitters heartily agrees with the DNR’s decision to institute a partial ban. “The problem is there’s just not enough water. Now that the water has dropped so low, everything has kind of evened out and there’s no real channel anymore,” Gilbert said by phone this morning. “That’s great that they’re banning fishing in that area. That’s excellent. If these salmon don’t get up the river, it’s going to hurt our population of fish in the near future. If the problem continues to happen, if something’s not done to let the fish get up the river, we’ll really feel it. The fish are already half dead, they’re easy prey. They won’t lay their eggs until the get up into the river. If they don’t do that, we’re looking at a drop in fishing. You can’t tell a fisherman to not fish until the ban goes into effect, but I will definitely inform people of what’s going on. If a guy is too lazy to walk ten minutes up the river to fish and instead goes and stands in ankle deep water and grabs them, to me that’s not fishing.”

Meanwhile, on the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, a citizen has taken matters into his own hands.

Lone Sandbagger captured midday on September 17. Photo by Chip Marks.

Photographer Chip Marks said he saw this gentleman working on his project last night (September 16) and he spoke with him this afternoon.

Jim Stafford of Rustic Resorts is out in the bay at post time laying out sandbags. According to Chip Marks, what he’s doing is working. “I saw a couple of the biggest salmon I’ve ever seen in my life, real monsters, and I watched them make it through where he’s been working. If you come out here, it’s obvious what to do—block off the smaller shallower channels. And that’s what he’s doing.”

According to Marks, Stafford said, “I’ll probably go to jail for this, but it has to be done. I’m going to keep rolling.

“Some fishermen from Ohio were fishing off the bridge and complaining that the fishing’s not as good as it was last year. I told them I’ve got shovels and they should come out and help. I don’t understand this. There’s a dredge sitting right over there on the Elberta side. This should have been done last year. Everybody knew this was going to be a problem.”

“What he’s doing is working,” said Marks. “They’re making it. If 20 more people came out with shovels it would really make a difference.”

Lon Busch of Houghton Lake, one of the instigators of the save-the-salmon-run effort, said by phone today that he thinks the lone sandbagger has the right idea. “Something should have been done five years ago—10 years ago. We’ve had a sand issue in the river for more than one summer, I can tell you that. If locals had been paying attention earlier this year the ban order would be in effect now. We were out on Friday in one of the most beautiful holes in the river and there was nothing in there,” Busch said.


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Find IPR’s report on the low-water salmon crisis here

Facebook page on the crisis, created by Adrian Poulisse

DNR’s press release on the matter, issued September 14

More photos on the Elberta Alert Facebook page

DNR, Local Leaders Respond to Salmon Crisis: “Leave the Fish Alone”

In Green Elbertians, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Politics, Uncategorized on September 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm

By Emily Votruba

Historic low levels in Lake Michigan (the lowest since 1961) have caused extreme low water in Betsie Lake. Thousands of salmon are dead and dying as they try to breach the sandbars and get into Betsie River to spawn.

Beached salmon who never made it to spawn. Photo by Chip Marks, September 14, 2012.

Don Tanner, Benzie County commissioner and a licensed professional fishing guide, said by phone this afternoon that the word has come from Mark Tonello at the DNR’s Fisheries department that fishing at the mouth of the Betsie will be closed. But that order takes 21 days to take effect, time the spawning salmon don’t have. In the meantime, Tanner and Tonello are asking that people voluntarily avoid the area. Tanner said the presence of people standing in and near the salmon’s pathway to their spawning ground is “spooking” them off course. Not to mention the snagging and bagging that’s going on.

“Don’t go out there and harass the fish. Let them get up the river. From now until 21 days that will be voluntary. After that, DNR’s issuing a closure. I would encourage people to leave them alone. If you want to fish, let them get up a couple bends and settle down and fish them up there. Likely the fishery will remain open in the bottom end of the bay toward the pierhead. But at some point midbay the DNR will be drawing an imaginary line, and from there to the bridge you won’t be able to fish,” Tanner said. People caught fishing in the closed waters will receive tickets and fines.

Adrian Poulisse of the Benzie County Planning Commission, and Dennis Holcombe, Gilmore Planning Commission, have been urging residents to call Dan Benishek and Bill Huizenga to draw their attention to the potential salmon run failure. The Alert reported yesterday that several fishermen had begun a campaign to get the main channel dredged up to the M-22 bridge. There was even talk of volunteers showing up with shovels.

Poulisse said he would be on the bridge and in the Marina Park this afternoon, talking to fishermen and handing them cards with phone numbers for Benishek and Huizenga. “This is an immediate environmental crisis and will become an economic crisis for our area in a couple of years if something doesn’t happen fast,” said Poulisse. Poulisse recommended calling the DC rather than local offices of the two reps, to “concentrate” the phone calls. Poulisse said he’d spoken with Ray Franz yesterday.

Any dredging would require permits from the Army Corps and the EPA, a process which normally takes months—”certainly not in enough time to save this run of fish,” said Tanner. According to the DNR, “dredging is off the table,” said Tanner, who had discussed the matter with Mark Tonello today.

Tanner said according to Tonello there was a failed dredging effort several years ago at the mouth of the Little Manistee river. “Around 1998 they had the same problem. They went over there and dredged out a channel, did everything to fortify it, and the river whipped them in a day, between wave action and hydraulic action in the river—it filled right back in. What we need is more water. And I don’t know what to do about that.”

Tanner said the DNR recently announced a significant reduction in fish plantings in the area to rely more on natural reproduction. “The concern is that the forage out there [in Lake Michigan] is light and the fish are not as big and healthy as they should be. They’re coming back fairly stressed as it is. These are consequences of all the other things that are going on in our lake system. Now we’ve got this historic low lake level, and they’re having trouble getting up the river. But they can, and they will.

“But as soon as they see people standing in the water they freak out and beach themselves or go in directions they might not otherwise go. And there’s a lot of bushwhacking going on out there—people grabbing them, throwing them, chasing them. We just need to get the people out of there and let the fish do what the fish do.”

Congressman Dan Benishek’s DC office: (202) 225-4735

Senator Carl Levin: (202) 224-6221

Senator Debbie Stabenow:  (202) 224-4822

Congressman Bill Huizenga: (202) 225-4401

Partial Fishing Ban, Dredging Considered to Save 2012 Salmon Spawn

In Breaking, Green Elbertians, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Uncategorized on September 13, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Per an email received today from Dennis Holcombe, chair of the Gilmore Township planning commission: “I talked to the DNR this morning. They had just returned from a site visit here in Elberta, they walked the area. Their analysis is that the level of Lake Michigan is the lowest it has been since 1961 and this is being exacerbated by the tailngs from the river. They believe some fish are making it through but not enough. They are considering a no-fishing ban on the east end of Betsie Bay so more salmon can make it up river.  We discussed dredging [through the salmon’s main migratory channel through the bay to the bridge over M-22] and the complications of that process most notably the up-front time lag (red tape and dollars) to get it done. I suggested that the cost could be mitigated if the [dredged material] could be stockpiled around the existing shoreline instead of trucking it out. The trucking is the highest cost of a dredging operation, they concurred. They also said that the DEQ may not allow the dredgings to be trucked if contamination was an issue. I don’t know about the practicality of building out the shoreline with dredgings or how the communities would feel about gaining more land from such an operation. An upside to stockpiling the dredings around the shoreline would be that we could cover up the phragmites and the [nonnative] cattails … I think we need [Ray] Franz involved.”

Holcombe said by telephone that he hoped a dialogue would begin among residents soon about what the options are so that some action can be taken to avert what he believes may turn out to be “an economic nightmare for the community” if this compromised salmon run continues.

“We Won’t Be Back in 2015”: Fishermen Urge Action on Low-Water Threat to Salmon Run

In Breaking, Open Season, Uncategorized on September 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm

By Emily Votruba

A group of concerned fishermen are mounting a campaign to avert what they feel might be a failure in this year’s salmon run. Thousands of fish are dead and dying in the low water of the Betsie Bay trying to make it up into the Betsie River to spawn. Justin Vanderlinde, the game officer for Benzie County, and Mark Tonello of the Fisheries Management department both met with several fishermen this morning at Elberta’s Marina Park.

Lon Busch, a retired schoolteacher from Houghton Lake, posted this sign (below) at Stapleton’s and others at Crystal View Cafe and Wesco this week.

Fisherman Lon Busch posted this sign at Stapleton’s in Benzonia this week. He’s hoping his concern over the dying salmon in Betsie Bay will “go viral.”

Mr. Busch and his friends Leonard Merrill (Merrill’s Water Power Sawmill), Jay Durling (Benzonia), and Dennis Parise and Rick Pons (North Carolina) were gathered at about 10 am this morning, gazing out at the birds walking around in the grass and weeds growing in the middle of the bay. Several fishermen could be seen in the distance standing in inches of water where last year canoes and other small craft easily glided. Read the rest of this entry »