July 2, 2008

Black River to Host New Sturgeon Facility

By Sheri McWhirter, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

Jul. 2--TOWER -- A new rearing facility for lake sturgeon will be built on the Black River in Cheboygan County in an effort to grow the threatened fish's population.

Lake sturgeon can grow to lengths of seven feet, and next spring many may spend the early part of their lives in a facility on the banks of the Black River before their release into the stream.

Those already in the river and Black Lake make up an enclosed inland lake population of only between 500 and 800 adults, less than half the goal of 2,000 sturgeons, state officials said.

"Our goal is to build the population so it's self-sustaining, so there's a time when we only have to make sure that habitat in the river is conducive for reproduction and we protect them from poaching," said Brenda Archambo, president of the local Sturgeon for Tomorrow group.

The nonprofit group partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State University during the last eight years in efforts to restore the sturgeon population and continue research of the prehistoric fish.

A rearing facility will be constructed this summer. By next spring fishery officials will collect drifting larval sturgeon from the Black River and grow them to between three and six inches before release, said Dave Borgeson, DNR fishery supervisor.

"The reason we believe the effort will be successful is we're seeing stocked fish from the 1980s at the full adult stage now," he said.

The rearing facility will cost about $150,000 to build near the existing Kleber Dam at the Twin School Road crossing near Tower, part of a negotiated agreement between the state and the company that operates the dam. Tower Kleber Limited Partnership will pay for the rearing facility, officials said.

"It's beneficial to the community and the environment. It's good for us to give back a little, too," said Nate Sayers, facility manager at the hydroelectric dam.

The company also will provide free electricity to the facility, he said.

The rearing center will take over duties for a temporary streamside station that operated downstream and released more than 17,000 juvenile lake sturgeons over the last three years into the Cheboygan River watershed, including the Black, Sturgeon and Pigeon rivers.


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