2018-09-13 / Outdoors

Keep mill pond, residents say

While environmental groups have called for removal of the Northport dam to drain the mill pond, such an undertaking may lack grass root support.

At least that was the impression left by several who spoke last week at the Northport Village Council meeting. They were in attendance because of one discussion item placed on the agenda by trustee Campbell McLeod: “Develop plan to assess Mill Pond.”

It turned out that McLeod had no intention of pulling the plug on the Northport Mill Pond. Instead, he wants to village to consider adoption of a regular maintenance schedule that would include dredging.

But the wording on the agenda was enough to draw several residents to the meeting, including members of the Northport Sportsman Club that annually holds a trout fishing derby in the mill pond.

A letter provided by Ryan Blessing led off public comment. Blessing said the pond holds back runoff during big rains, which in turn means that the Northport Marina needs less dredging.

He took aim at an environmental report produced by the Leelanau Forum calling for the dam’s removal to restore brook trout fishery. Blessing provided photos of brookies caught in the mill pond over the last two years. He said summer temperatures routinely push brook trout upstream, adding that the dam prevents competing steelhead and salmon from entering the stream to spawn.

“The pond has been part of Northport longer than any of us have been here,” he wrote.

The Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited helped to fund the study.

Also attending the meeting but not speaking was Dave Korson, president of the Northport Sportsman Club.

The mill pond was last dredged in 2010 at a cost of about $80,000. Trustee McLeod wants funds for dredging to be set aside annually, and the project placed on the village capital improvement plan.

Chris Holton, head of the village Department of Public Works, was asked to make soundings to determine pond depth. That information will be needed to estimate the cost of future dredging.

Trustee Mike Stoffel said the cost could pay for itself.

“Without that pond, we would have such a mess ... you have to look at it that it’s far cheaper to dredge this pond rather than the marina,” he said.

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Trout Unlimited is a biased

Trout Unlimited is a biased entity. Their positions are always to remove any dam, regardless of the owners rights. River fishing is limited to access to the system. There is “fishing” available both in a dam’s impoundment, and just downstream of one that enhances “recreational” opportunity. Dams purposes are multiple and can change over time. Initial built in many of our local communities for sawmill or gristmill, they transcended to hydropower, then recreational or land development, to wetland development. Nature has a way to adapt to changes. Arguments on economics are normally skewed to support ones bias. Fortunately, in Michigan, its the dam owners right to decide on the deposition of their dam. Many of our dams are in need of repair and maintenance. Removal is a viable option. So too is preservation for both historical and operational values, that are hard to assign economic value to. Those decisions are best left to the owner. If others can secure the dam’s ownership, deposition of the dam is then their responsibility.