NE Michigan's Pigeon River Devastated


Trout Bum
For those of us in northern Michigan the Pigeon is a real gem, Running through the wildest chunk of country in the lower peninsula, the Pigeon River Country State Forest, home to the largest elk herd east of the rockies, pine marten, bobcats, loons and all the related critters.

This happened during a real big rain event. A stream gage downstream from this dam was reading about 185 cfs (high and fast) and that suddenly dropped to 6 cfs (dry). The story given by the dam operators sounds, well, fishy.

As the story relates, this is the second time this same private organization has released huge amounts of silt into the Pigeon from their heavily sedimented pond.

If you live in Michigan and this upsets you why don't you drop the governor an e-mail telling her how you feel?


Articles from the Gaylord Herald Times

DNR Investigates Fish Kill on Pigeon River
June 26th

A discharge from a private dam on the Pigeon River near Vanderbilt was responsible for a potentially significant fish kill downstream, Department of Natural Resources fisheries officials said today.

The discharge, which began Sunday night, flushed sediment from above the dam that is located on the property of Song of the Morning Ranch near Sturgeon Valley Road in Otsego County. The fish were killed either
by the sediment or thermal shock, said DNR fisheries biologist Dave Borgeson.

Fish of numerous species, including brown trout up to 19 inches, were found dead, Borgeson said. Electro-fishing by DNR personnel failed toproduce enough live fish to make a population assessment in the water for about two miles downstream from the dam.

*We will be going farther downstream Thursday to see how far the fish kill extends,* Borgeson said. *During our initial sampling we are not finding the numbers of trout we knew were there prior to the incident. These populations fluctuate, but they are never this low.

Borgeson added there's a stretch of the river that is almost devoid of trout.

A major fish kill involving the same dam occurred in July 1984, when tons of silt swept down the river after the dam gates were opened for repairs.

Since that time, repeated requests by the DNR that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulate the dam have been denied by the federal agency.

Officials from the Department of Environmental Quality's dam safety division also are investigating the incident.

DNR, DEQ continues probe into dam, fish kill

By Chris Engle, Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 4:08 PM EDT

CORWITH TOWNSHIP — Staff with the state departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Natural Resources (DNR) will come together later this week to discuss an action plan for the Pigeon River and the dam which caused a fish kill last week.

A private dam operated by Song of the Morning Ranch on Sturgeon Valley Road, east of Vanderbilt, malfunctioned the night of June 13, allowing a heavy flow of water along with black silt into the river, killing fish and clouding the water. A DNR official indicated “better operation of dams or going to more natural systems” is favored by the department, though he did not discuss any options being considered.

DNR fisheries staff continued surveying the river for signs of trout life Tuesday morning, trying to determine whether the fish had moved out of the impacted area or were simply wiped out by a release of silt the night of June 13. Survey results so far — along with riverbanks littered with dead fish — are pointing to a significant fish kill.

“What we’ve seen so far in those areas we’ve shocked (used electrical current to stun fish), the trout populations are well below what we’d normally find,” said Dave Borgeson, DNR Fisheries supervisor for the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit. “Whether they died or moved out, that’s what we’re trying to determine.”

Borgeson added a survey of the 1 1/2-mile stretch of river between the dam and Sturgeon Valley Road produced no brown trout.

“That’s just not normal,” he said.

Surveys further downstream to find higher populations of fish where displaced trout may have relocated also turned up a lower than normal fish count, according to Borgeson.

The DEQ is still investigating the incident, where the dam’s automatic system reportedly malfunctioned overnight, opening a gate almost completely and allowing sediment from an impoundment to flow into the river. Normal river flow is around 65 cubic feet per second (cfs); the river spiked at around 180 cfs at midnight June 14. Ranch staff observed the impoundment draining and manually closed the dam completely, dropping flow to 6 cfs, before gradually returning flow to normal.

Song of the Morning Ranch — a yoga retreat owned by Golden Lotus, a nonprofit organization — is permitted to operate the dam to generate electricity for its own use. The dam is not federally regulated.

Ranch general manager Ian Wylie said Tuesday the Golden Lotus board will convene at the ranch this weekend to discuss the situation, adding a decision on the future of the dam would be up to the board.

Dam operations have returned to normal and the water flowing into the river appears clear.
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These are the same irresponsible clowns whose dam blew up about 25 years ago with similar consequences. Here they go again.

We have three dams on our property -- about 40 miles south of there, but not on the same watershed -- and have never had a mishap in 57 years. They get inspected every five years and we maintain them.

The DEQ should make them remove the dam and assess them a fine that they won't forget any time soon. What a shame.
I completely agree. There are a lot of clubs or families with man-made impoundments that are conscientous but these clowns are just scoff-laws and worse. Their negligence has impacted thousands or sportsmen, recreational users, and the businesses that rely on them.

They oughta be horse-whipped! Why, if I was a horse. . . . .
Thanks for this heads-up... will write the governor as you suggested. She does appear to listen.

So much comes down to human greed, and failure to understand that all things are connected. In nature, there is no such thing as a free lunch.