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Dam Removal Benefits Jordan River

October 15, 2007

MANCELONA —

Listen to the bubbling water of the Green River flowing over the rocks and it sounds like a normal river. But one section has received a human touch with a new design to improve fish migration between the Green River and the Jordan River to potentially enhance trout spawning grounds. As part of the new design, the Conservation Resource Alliance — a Traverse City based group dedicated to preserving and protecting Northern Michigan's waterways — coordinated the recent removal of the 50-plus year old Green River dam just north of Mancelona.

During the two month construction project, alliance biologist Mark Johnson said, "We've taken eight feet of vertical head and spread it out on about 175 feet of stream. It's all about elevation to make a grade through which fish can pass. Largely, the biggest benefit is reconnecting the fish population." In place of the eight foot dam, Johnson said engineers designed a small rocky barrier and a system of rock step pools with rocks lining the bottom of the river as well as the banks to control erosion. The rocky barrier will continue the dam's original purpose to control the upstream water elevation to divert water to the adjacent Green River Trout Farm. Water which has not been diverted descends through a series of rock step pools which provide space for fish to move freely upstream and downstream as well as a place for resting and spawning.

Residents living along the river need not be concerned about the water level, however. "The water elevation downstream doesn't change at all," Johnson said. Now that the dam has been removed, Johnson said trout from the warmer waters of the Jordan River may take advantage of the cooler waters of the Green River. Trout require cool temperatures for both spawning and survival, he said, and the Green River has an average temperature of 50-55 degrees during the summer. Even if fish from the Jordan River do not take advantage of expanded breeding grounds, Johnson said what is important is that the fish have the option. "At least it's available habitat now. It opens up more available spawning water and smaller trout will have a potentially easier time spawning," he said.

Although the dam removal appears to be a win situation, there are a few concerns. John Richter — president of the Friends of the Jordan River which helped provide input for the project — said the change may impact the type of fish migrating. By opening the headwaters near the trout farm, Richter said the water will be open to non-native fish such as brown trout, rainbow trout and salmon. As a result, they may affect the native brook trout population which cannot compete with non-native species. Despite concerns, though, he said the dam removal was the best option. "Free flowing, in my mind, is desirable," Richter said. "But with removal of the barrier comes the obligation to maintain the habitat."

Louise Nelle can be contacted at 439-9339, or lnelle@petoskeynews.com.

Louise Nelle, Reporter
Petoskey News-Review
319 State Street
Petoskey, MI 49770
phone: 231-439-9339
fax: 231-347-5461
lnelle@petoskeynews.com


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