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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

SturgeonVision...and You Don't Need Those Goofy Cellophane Glasses

Okay, it will never get tens of thousands of hits on YouTube, but we think the video of big lake sturgeon swimming around in front of an underwater camera in the Menominee River is a good story to tell.

Here’s the story; the video link is below. For years, the River Alliance has joined the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the natural resources agencies of Michigan and Wisconsin, and WE Energies in figuring out how to enable the mystical and prehistoric lake sturgeon to get around the many dams on the Menominee River. (This is the border river between Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.)

This is no simple task, even though the devices that may end up transporting the fish up and over the dam – essentially, elevators and water slides – are commonplace. For example, how’s a sturgeon supposed to find the elevator to get over a dam?

The only way to find out is put a box along the side of a dam and see if the fish find their way into it. That’s what you’ll see in the video clip – big sturgeon attracted to a box mounted on the side of the dam (the so-called fishway entrance). The study is designed to figure out whether sturgeon can be drawn to a place at a dam site where they can be lifted over the dam, or swim themselves to new streams expressly built to allow them to swim around them dam.

River Alliance’s hydro consultant Jim Fossum says, “This study was a very significant step. We now have proof beyond a doubt that sturgeon will enter the test device, and this information will help in the next phase – designing the actual structures for fish passage.”

Other fish passage projects the River Alliance is negotiating are at the two hydro dams near the mouth of the Menominee River, at Marinette, operated by North American Hydro; and the Alliant Energy-owned Prairie du Sac dam on the Wisconsin River.

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