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Michigan Trout Unlimited Announces Agreement for Pigeon River Dam Removal

2010 April 14
by Trout Unlimited

Michigan Trout  Unlimited is pleased to announce that an agreement signed Monday will provide for the restoration of the Pigeon River by removing the Golden Lotus Dam located near Vanderbilt, Mich.  You have seen us mention this ongoing case in past emails, newsletters and in Michigan TROUT magazine, and you might have seen articles about it in newspapers around the state.

Trout Unlimited (TU), the Pigeon River Country Association, Golden Lotus, Inc. (the owners of the dam) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment signed an interim order, resolving litigation from the June 2008 accidental release of sediment from the Golden Lotus Dam which resulted in a fish kill in the river.  The MDNRE, TU and PRCA entered into litigation against Golden Lotus following the incident.

“All parties to the litigation have been working towards an agreement that would put aside the litigation and focus resources on helping the Pigeon River.  Golden Lotus’ desire the do what was best for the river and its aquatic life was instrumental in reaching this agreement.  This agreement will protect the river from similar incidents in the future while allowing it to become healthier than it has ever been,” said Bryan Burroughs, Executive Director of Michigan TU.

The Pigeon River is one of Michigan’s most popular trout streams. Flowing 43 miles from Gaylord to Mullet Lake, the river has been altered by the dam since it was created over 100 years ago.  Dams disrupt the natural flow of water, sediment, nutrients and organisms in rivers and often warm water temperatures, past the ideal range for trout and other coldwater fishes.  Removal of this dam is expected to greatly improve the trout fishery for nearly 20 miles downstream of the dam.   The Pigeon River is home to wild brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout.  “This is a great day for coldwater conservation, our natural resources and the trout in the Pigeon River”, said John Walters, president of the local Headwaters TU chapter.

TU became involved in the litigation to help ensure protection and restoration of the Pigeon River. Negotiations had been underway since 2008.  TU has wanted to remove the dam in the river, to improve conditions for trout and to prevent future dam-related events from occurring.  TU was able to help provide critical assistance with, and information for this dam removal, which facilitated the negotiation process.

Peter Gustafson, trout angler and past chair of the Pigeon River Country Citizens Advisory Council, provided legal representation for Michigan TU and the Pigeon River Country Association.  “Pete provided valuable assistance with the legal proceedings, but his contributions toward facilitating a successful negotiation was truly invaluable,” said Burroughs.

The dam removal planning process will begin immediately, while the actual removal of the dam is expected to be conducted gradually over several years to reduce further impacts on the river. All parties to the agreement will continue working in coordination on the dam removal planning.  MITU will continue to provide updates on this project via its website, magazines and emails.

Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with 7,000 members in Michigan and 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.