The River Alliance of Wisconsin and partners received a grant to implement the first phase of a multi-phase project to help restore lake sturgeon in the Lake Michigan basin. The project will allow fish passage between historic spawning and rearing habitat in the Menominee River and Lake Michigan. Reconnection is occurring by providing fish passage upstream and downstream around two dams, less than a mile apart, near the Menominee River’s mouth. For the first phase of the project, partners are installing a fish guidance rack at the upper dam’s powerhouse to protect fish from entrainment and direct them to a bypass structure where they will be safely directed to a downstream conveyance and then passed around the lower dam. Upstream passage will be facilitated in subsequent phases. The long-term outcomes of this project, when all phases are complete, could include restored native fish passage between Lake Michigan and 21 river miles and a potential increase in the lake sturgeon population by as much as 20,000 adults within 50 to 100 years.
Our project — to move lake sturgeon around hydro dams on the Menominee River so they can get to spawning waters blocked from them for decades — is both technically and “politically” complex. A team of agencies, the dam owners and a nonprofit group has worked on this project for nearly 10 years. The fish passage devices are nearly built, and every one of us can’t wait for the thrill of seeing the first sturgeon come through those devices we’ve built that will enable them to thrive. – Denny Caneff, Executive Director, River Alliance of Wisconsin