September 30, 2018
Outdoors Article 11367

Idyllic view of stretch of the AuSable River near the Harietta Hills fish farm.

AUSABLE FISH FARMING ENDS: Lawsuit Settled, Hatchery Preserved

September 30, 2018
By: Dave Rogers

The Anglers of the Au Sable has announced that it has settled a lawsuit against Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC, ending all commercial fish farming operations at the Grayling Fish Hatchery, on the East Branch of the Au Sable River.

Harrietta Hills also agrees not to conduct any future commercial activities in the AuSable Watershed.

The $160,000 settlement brings an end to a four-year legal battle in administrative hearings and circuit court. The often-contentious case received press in The New York Times and other national media outlets and inspired several bills to regulate aquaculture in Michigan and the Great Lakes.

"The State's issuance of this permit was a green light for a commercial fish farm operation to pollute the Au Sable River, plain and simple," said Anglers of the AuSable President Joe Hemming, adding:

"Such permits, and such operations, have no business being located on one of the most popular wild trout streams in the world. We are happy to have the case settled and look forward to working closely with the local community to improve the Grayling Fish Hatchery as a tourist attraction, and historical landmark. Today is a new chapter in the life of this historic facility."

Under the settlement, Anglers of the Au Sable has created a new nonprofit entity, Grayling Hatchery, Inc, which will take over the lease, as well as the responsibility for the Grayling Fish Hatchery. Visitors will be able to view and feed trout, as well as learn about the history of the facility, and the famous wild trout fishery of the Au Sable.

Said Hemming: "Fewer trout. More history. More education. We believe that the Grayling Fish Hatchery is an important historical landmark, not a commercial fish farm operation. This was the intent of the 1995 deed between Crawford County and the State of Michigan when the state decided to cease operations there in the 1960s. We intend to honor the deed and the wishes of Crawford County and to make the facility both safe for the river and worthwhile to the community."

Additionally, Anglers of the Au Sable will reinvest in plans to achieve fish passage between the main river and the upper East Branch, which is currently blocked by the Grayling Fish Hatchery. Such fish passages allow trout to migrate to cool water refuge, to spawn, and to diversify gene pools.

Plans for a fish passage were rejected after Harrietta Hills began operation of the facility. Hundreds of Anglers of the Au Sable members from around the world donated to this cause. "Anglers of the Au Sable could not have prevailed without that generous support," said Hemming, concluding:

"In the end, this case demonstrates yet again the enormous and global reverence anglers, river lovers and conservationists have for Crawford County's crown jewel -- the river itself. Anglers of the Au Sable is more than 1,200 men and women from across the nation, created to preserve, protect and enhance the Au Sable River System for future generations of fly fishers.

0202 nd 04-09-2024

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