DNR News: Sturgeon hatchery tours, park rangers honored, rock reef habitat restoration

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News Digest - Week of Aug. 19, 2019

Juvenile lake sturgeon

Don't miss your chance to tour the Black River sturgeon hatchery this Saturday!

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and additional ones, are available in this folder.

Rock reef fish spawning habitat restoration underway in Saginaw Bay

Rock reef restoration - Saginaw Bay

It’s been more than 20 years in the making, but this month a fish spawning habitat restoration dream becomes a reality for Saginaw Bay. The DNR and Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy have built a coalition to restore a 2-acre rock reef at the Coreyon Reef site, about 11 miles northeast of the mouth of the Saginaw River. 

The restoration project focuses on the trailing edge of a historic rock reef complex that existed naturally in the bay until it was heavily degraded by sand and sedimentation from long-standing erosion in the watershed. 

Restoration efforts began this month and should be completed by early fall. Once done, the restored reef will be roughly 2 acres and reach a peak of about 5 feet off the bottom in 18 feet of water. The rock, placed by Great Lakes Dock and Materials, LLC from Muskegon, is crushed limestone and glacial cobble. In all, approximately 22,500 tons of rock will be used to build the reef, carefully placed in precise positions and dimensions by barges and cranes.

“Many fish species use critical and limited rocky habitats, like cobble and gravel, to spawn on because it can protect their eggs from predators and ensure they get enough oxygen to incubate,” said Dave Fielder, a DNR fisheries research biologist.

“Walleye, lake whitefish and lake trout are expected to benefit the most from this habitat restoration – but other fish may use the reef, including cisco, which are being reintroduced in the bay through a new stocking program, or smallmouth bass," Fielder said. "We hope the reef restoration will promote a more resilient fish population for the future.”  

Principal funding for the project came from a $980,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, with funds originating from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The final project total is $1.379 million and includes $25,000 from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative and various agency funds from within EGLE. 

Questions? Contact Dave Fielder (DNR), 989-356-3232, ext. 2572 or Bretton Joldersma (EGLE), 517-256-1773. For more information on this project, including a list of involved partners, visit MichiganSeaGrant.org/SaginawBayReef

Park rangers recognized for exemplary lifesaving actions

Park rangers lifesaving awards Aug. 8 NRC

The lifesaving actions of four DNR park rangers this year were recognized by the department at the Aug. 8 meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing:

  • Andrew Lundborg helped rescue a kite surfer at Grand Haven State Park July 18. After a visitor noticed the victim in distress and being swept away by the current, Lundborg entered the water with a life jacket and successfully threw a rescue line. Upon pulling the victim into shallow water, he helped the fatigued man to shore. Lundborg's actions kept the man from being pushed into the rocks of the pier or taken farther away from shore.
  • Nick Sparks and Chad Cook immediately took action to help a park patron who encountered trouble while kayaking July 25 at Sterling State Park. The kayaker was overpowered by strong waves in Lake Erie, and the kayak was taking on water. Sparks and Cook launched a rescue boat and located the kayaker after a thorough search.
  • Zachary Bierlein helped save a Holly Recreation Area visitor on the evening of May 31. Bierlein found a young woman at Heron Beach unresponsive after overdosing on heroin. After the woman's breathing became labored and her pulse started to decline, Bierlein began CPR upon a 911 responder’s instruction. He performed CPR for 10 minutes until paramedics arrived. Paramedics said that if Bierlein had arrived five minutes later, the woman would have died.

"I believe we have some of the most dedicated park rangers within Michigan state parks," said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. "These men and women not only ensure that our parks run smoothly, but they address just about any issue that arises."

Learn more about the important work of park rangers and other DNR staff at Michigan.gov/DNRJobs.

Questions? Contact Ron Olson, 517-284-6135.

Public tours Saturday at Black River sturgeon hatchery

Juvenile lake sturgeon

Want an up-close look at how lake sturgeon are reared? Come to the Black River hatchery for free tours Saturday, Aug. 24. The tours, hosted by the DNR, Michigan State University, Tower-Kleber Limited Partnership and Sturgeon For Tomorrow, will run from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Researchers from the DNR and MSU will be on hand to talk about lake sturgeon biology, reproductive ecology and this year's research. Sturgeon For Tomorrow representatives will discuss restoration work to improve sturgeon spawning habitat, sturgeon conservation and outreach programming.

"Visitors will see 3-month-old lake sturgeon currently in the hatchery, and learn about their early life history and how we can all play a role in keeping healthy populations of this fish in our waters," said Dave Borgeson, the DNR's Northern Lake Huron Unit supervisor.

The sturgeon fingerlings reared at the hatchery are scheduled to be released into the Black River and Mullett Lake after the tours conclude.

The streamside hatchery is a critical component of lake sturgeon rehabilitation efforts in the Cheboygan River watershed. Research done by the facility – supported by DNR, federal, Great Lakes Fishery Trust and Sturgeon For Tomorrow funds – helps increase our understanding of this important species. Results provide much-needed guidance for lake sturgeon recovery endeavors, while improving the effectiveness of culture and stocking efforts.

Questions? Contact Dave Borgeson, 989-732-3541 or Brenda Archambo (Sturgeon For Tomorrow), 231-625-2776. For more information on lake sturgeon and to learn how to become involved in their rehabilitation efforts, visit SturgeonForTomorrow.orgMichigan.gov/Sturgeon or GLSturgeon.com.  

Directions: The hatchery is in Cheboygan County on the Upper Black River adjacent to the Kleber Dam. From M-68 2 miles west of Onaway, take Black River Road (F-05) north to Twin School Road, then west a little over 3 miles to the hatchery, which is on the north side of the road just before the dam.

ICYMI: See how grant dollars are helping fight invasive species

Yellow Floating Heart removal

You’ve probably heard about the problems caused by invasive species, but do you know what is being done to fight them in Michigan?

In case you missed it, the state of Michigan recently released an online story map that lets people explore ongoing projects across the state that aim to protect Michigan’s forests, waters and open spaces from invasive species.

Since 2014, the Michigan Legislature has provided $3.6 million annually to support projects dedicated to preventing and managing invasive species through the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program. Now, you can learn more about all of those projects in one place. Read the full story here.


Check out the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival this weekend, Aug. 23-25, at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Rain or shine, come out and enjoy three days packed with music and fun!


Falconry has a long and storied history, and its legacy endures today. If you're interested in taking up this sport, check out the falconry webpage for permit applications, fast facts and more.


Do you know your favorite state park inside and out? Consider becoming a volunteer campground host and help other park visitors make memories. Plus, camping fees are waived.

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