Manistique to get lamprey barrier

MANISTIQUE — Efforts are underway to establish a new sea lamprey barrier in Manistique, according to Jessica Barber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unit Supervisor, Sea Lamprey Control .

Barber spoke about this project during an informational meeting held before a recent meeting of the Manistique City Council.

Barber explained the history of lamprey barriers in the Manistique River. The existing river dam was built almost a century ago.

“That was constructed in about 1920,” she said. The dam had been used to generate power for Manistique Papers, Inc., but it was decommissioned in 1991 due to the implementation of new requirements that proved too expensive.

Until the mid-’90s, the dam had served as a barrier to sea lampreys. According to Barber, the existence of such a barrier is important because lampreys — an invasive species in Michigan — have had a major impact on the Great Lakes’ fisheries. One sea lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish per year, and Lake Michigan’s lamprey population kills 1.6 million pounds of fish annually.

Since it was decommissioned, the existing dam has been unable to function as an effective barrier to lampreys.

“It’s failing — it’s in deteriorating (condition),” Barber said.

The dam and its adjacent property have been in holding since Manistique Papers, Inc. declared bankruptcy in 2015. Though UP Paper, LLC has since bought the paper plant, they had no need for the dam and have not been operating it.

Gate operations allowing for sea lamprey trapping have been facilitated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the spring spawning season. Two of the dam’s gates have been open at all other times in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Several groups are working together to establish a new lamprey barrier in Manistique. These include local governments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the DNR, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

“It’s been really great to … witness the collaborative nature of the effort,” Barber said.

As the current dam structure is unusable, the groups plan to establish a steel sheet pile barrier just downstream from the dam. It would feature a fixed crest with stoplog sections, and would include sea lamprey traps in each corner with options for trapping lampreys along the face of the dam.

Barber said the project will affect the river’s center flume wall between the existing dam and the paper plant.

“We actually are going to remove the entire center wall,” she said. The river’s bank walls will remain intact.

Additionally, the project will include construction of a levee between the dam and the railroad, barrier piers to support the water line, and cradles on the new barrier to support the water line for future relocation.

An earlier design for this project would have had inundation effects on 466 acres of upstream wetlands, Barber said. In the current version, 284 acres are subject to these effects.

“We went through a design review to reduce … inundation effects,” Barber said. She noted that, of these 284 acres, only 15 will experience a habitat type change.

According to Barber, work on refining and finalizing the design of the new barrier will continue through 2019. In 2020, the groups involved plan to submit a joint permit to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. If this is approved, construction on the barrier is expected to begin in June 2021.