Fish Passage Project Celebration
BY JUSTIN CHIOTTI, ALPENA FWCO – WATERFORD, MICHIGAN SUB - STATION
fish with 73 miles of previously inaccessible habitat. Credit: USFWS
On October 27th, a ribbon cutting event was held along the banks of the Cass River in Frankenmuth, Michigan showcasing the most recent fish passage project in the Saginaw River watershed. For over ten years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) along with many partners have been eagerly awaiting the day when the Cass River is reconnected to 73 miles of high quality fish spawning habitat upstream of the Frankenmuth Dam.
The Frankenmuth Dam was constructed prior to the Civil War and has been a part of Frankenmuth’s history for over 160 years. The dam was originally built as a mill and the impounded water upstream of the dam serves as a tourist attraction where the “Bavarian Belle Riverboat” and “Frankenmuth Fun Ships” operate during the summer. In order to maintain the impoundment created by the dam, but still allow for fish passage, it was decided that a rock ramp structure be constructed to meet both economic and ecological goals. The rock ramp imitates natural rapids and consists of fourteen wedge shaped weirs spaced about twenty feet apart. The entire rock ramp is approximately 300 feet in length.
the Frankenmuth rock ramp ribbon cutting ceremony. Credit: USFWS
The ribbon cutting event was well attended by the media, local dignitaries, governmental representatives, and members of the community. During the ceremony speakers highlighted not only the ecological importance of reconnecting the river, but how important this project is to the City of Frankenmuth and Saginaw River watershed. The Service’s National Fish Passage Program Coordinator, Susan Wells, was on hand to deliver a speech on behalf of the Service. Prior to becoming the National Fish Passage Program Coordinator, Susan served as the first Fish Passage Coordinator for Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO). During her time in Alpena she was involved in the initial conversations regarding the Frankenmuth Dam removal project so it was nice to have her present to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Since 2010, fish biologists from the Alpena FWCO have been collecting fisheries data above and below the Frankenmuth Dam in order to evaluate the fish community. In the upcoming years pre and post assessment data will be used to monitor changes in the fish community and evaluate the success of the rock ramp to allow fish passage. The Saginaw River watershed and Saginaw Bay contain some of the best walleye fishing in the world. Reconnecting the Cass River will provide valuable spawning habitat for not only walleye, but smallmouth bass, and many other native fish species as well.
The Frankenmuth fish passage project was a collaborative project with many different funding agencies, for more information and live webcam please visit: http://www.frankenmuthcity.com/information/damproject