The Grayling fish hatchery is an obsolete, 100-year-old “flow-through” facility on the East Branch of the Au Sable. It was last operated by Crawford County as a tourist attraction from 1983 to the present.
The hatchery has been leased to Harrietta Hills for 5 cents a year over the next 20 years in order to operate an industrial scale fish farm. The intention of the fish farm is to increase production from under 20,000 pounds of fish per year to 300,000 pounds per year. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued a pollution discharge permit. This permit has dangerously high standards for phosphorus and suspended solids (fish feces and waste feed), no standards for nitrogen, ammonia, biological oxygen demand or dissolved oxygen; inadequate monitoring requirements; and inadequate protocols for escapement or disease control. Furthermore, no performance bond was required in order to operate this fish farm.
At pollution levels allowed by the permit, the facility will add about 160,000 pounds of feces and uneaten feed to the water per year and over 1,600 pounds of phosphorus. There will be continuous dissolved oxygen violations in the river during the summer low flows. The fish farm will create harmful nutrient loading and sediment in the river thereby increasing significantly the risk for whirling disease in the river. This permit was contested in an 18-day administrative law hearing by Anglers of the Au Sable and Sierra Club. A separate lawsuit was filed in Crawford Circuit Court by Anglers of the Au Sable against the fish farm.
Further information regarding this matter can be found at www.ausableanglers.org.