Rivers all over the world have the same problem — fish can’t swim up them because of dams.
Fisheries biologists want to see if they can leave dams in place but allow certain fish to pass, but it’s complicated and the idea has created controversy in Traverse City.
Dams hurt native fish by blocking their access to rivers — but removing dams to let the fish through would open the way for invasive species.
A first-of-its-kind barrier designed to deal with this problem by sorting fish will be tested on the Boardman River in downtown Traverse City. If it’s successful, it could be a model for rivers all over the world.
People in Traverse City have been arguing about FishPass for years.
Construction on the new dam could begin this summer, but critics are hoping to put the brakes on it.
An Environmental Impact Statement would do that, as the process takes at least a year.
Local attorney Grant Parsons says it needs to happen.
“They’re going to radically move water and sediment, and we don’t know what’s in it or where it’s going,” he says
He wants answers about how the construction of the dam could hurt the Boardman River.
“I started out.. just wanting understanding of it, and the deeper I got into it, the more opposed I got," he says. "What I found out is we’re not getting answers, and I started attending more meetings, more public events, and the last one was about a week ago, sponsored by the DDA at the governmental center. They weren’t able to say what’s inside the process. How are they going to make FishPass work. And then they had no environmental assessment.”
One of two Environmental Assessments has been completed for everything above water, it just hasn’t been released to the public yet.
That should happen later this month, says Hal Harrington with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The second Environmental Assessment is still being compiled for everything under the water.
After both assessments are released, there will be another 30-day comment period.
Then the corps will decide if a full Environmental Impact Statement is needed.
If that happens, Fish Pass is probably two years away on the Boardman River, Harrington says.