February 3, 2016

Sierra Club Challenges Permit for Fish Farm in Au Sable River

Sierra Club Challenges Permit for Fish Farm in Au Sable River
Hearing Before DEQ Administrative Law Judge Starts February 8

For More Information, including copies of the DEQ-issued Permit and Sierra Club Contested Case Petition challenging it, contact:
Marvin RobersonSierra Club Forest Ecologist:  (906) 360-0288   marvin.roberson@sierraclub.org

LANSING--The Sierra Club announced the commencement of a Contested Case Hearing against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The hearing is regarding a challenge to the Michigan DEQ issuance of a permit to operate the old Grayling Fish Hatchery, situated within the Au Sable River, as an industrial fish farm. The Au Sable is a world famous trout stream, and a destination for thousands of anglers annually.

The DEQ issued the permit to Harrietta Hills, Trout Farm, LLC, to operate the facility on July 1, 2014. The Sierra Club challenged the DEQ permit on August 11, 2014. The challenge was issued under the MDEQ Contested Case procedure, which is similar to a court trial, but held in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Sierra Club is asking the Administrative Law Judge to overturn the permit which allows the facility to operate.

According to Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club Forest Ecologist, the permit conditions are so lax as to pose a grave danger to the Au Sable ecosystem. “The DEQ issued a permit to operate an industrial scale fish farm right in the Au Sable River. This permit contains absolutely no limits on  the discharge of live fish, dead fish, fish parts, or fish parasites, pathogens, or diseases," said Roberson.

The Sierra Club contends that it is simply not possible to operate a commercial fish farm safely in a location such as the Grayling Hatchery. 

“This facility sits within the flow of the Au Sable. It is an incontrovertible fact that when fish farms are connected to natural bodies of water, animals and diseases move from the farm to the natural water body," said Roberson. 
“This permit seems to bode poorly for the future of safe aquaculture in the state of Michigan” Roberson said, in reference to a major push by the state to increase aquaculture in Michigan. “If the state is willing to allow unlimited live, dead, and diseased fish into a system as small and delicate as the Au Sable, imagine what they will allow into the Great Lakes”.

The hearing begins Monday, February 8 in Lansing, and is scheduled to conclude by Thursday, March 3. Anglers of the Au Sable, based in Grayling, have also filed a petition challenging the permit, and are also plaintiffs in the Contested Case proceeding.