by Scott McClallen
Michigan fish hatcheries will receive $34 million in the 2023 budget for infrastructure repairs and replacement of a 54-year-old survey vessel.
“Michigan’s fish and aquatic habitats are among our state’s greatest natural, recreational and economic assets, and we must continue working together to protect them for future generations,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “Together with the historic, $450 million investments in our parks and public lands under the Building Michigan Together Plan I signed earlier this year, our bipartisan budget represents a once-in-a-generation investment that will help us continue safeguarding our most precious natural resources.”
Six hatchery facilities in Alanson, Beulah, Harrietta, Manistique, Marquette, and Mattawan are vital to managing and maintaining the state’s fisheries. They range from 20 years old to 50 years old, and the state says they require critical infrastructure repairs.
The Department of Natural Resources will spend that money replacing roofs and upgrading water supplies, electrical systems, and water aeration systems.
It will also replace outdated backup power generators and other measures to better protect fish.
“Upgrading electrical distribution systems, replacing outdated backup power supplies and improving water supplies would all reduce the likelihood of catastrophic fish loss and increase our ability to manage disease issues,” DNR Director Dan Eichinger said in a statement. “Overall, this investment will improve rearing conditions, which will translate into more consistent fish production levels and high-quality fish.”
The DNR has operated fish hatcheries for over 120 years to stock lakes and streams across Michigan.
One proposed new security feature is constructing a cool-water facility at the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan. Currently, walleyes are incubated in the same building where steelhead and Chinook salmon production occurs – a significant biosecurity vulnerability.
The proposed facility includes an incubation area for hatching walleye and muskellunge eggs, a tank room for early rearing of muskellunge, an egg receiving room, and better hatching equipment.
About $4 million will replace the DNR survey vessel Steelhead, which has been operating for 54 years.
“The S/V Steelhead is more than 20 years older than the average Great Lakes research vessel, which means we are spending more each year on maintenance issues and increasingly struggle to find parts to keep the vessel operational,” DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter said in a statement. “Given the age, maintenance costs and large carbon footprint of this survey vessel, a replacement is necessary to provide the needed level of assessment capabilities to meet fisheries management information requirements.”
Ships help conduct research and surveys of the Great Lakes. The data collected helps make sound management decisions, assesses capabilities for Tribal Consent Decree management, and supports aquatic invasive species surveillance.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery” by Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery and Visitor Center.