Traverse City News and Events

Experimental Fish Passage System On The Agenda

Sept. 6, 2016

A new experimental fish passage project at a Traverse City dam and a tax challenge from a national retailer in downtown TC top a busy agenda for Traverse City commissioners tonight (Tuesday).

Union Street Dam Fish Passage Project
Traverse City could become the site of an experimental fish passage project that could help refine invasive species controls throughout the Great Lakes.

Dr. Andrew Muir, science director at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, will seek support from city commissioners tonight for a bi-directional fish passage project at the Union Street Dam. The proposal seeks to encourage movement of “native and desirable fishes” in the Boardman River, while removing invasive species like sea lampreys. One or more channels would be constructed that would allow native species to progress through the river, while simultaneously testing out methods like velocity barriers, electrical/light/alarm cue guidances, and ladder traps to pass and remove unwanted species.

According to Muir, the goal is to construct an experimental system at the dam in 2018-19, followed by annual surveys of species below and above the barrier for up to a decade, continually tweaking the system each year to improve its efficiency. Once optimized by 2026, “the system will become fully operational at (the Union Street Dam) for the long term and purposed to pass fish,” says Muir. “Lessons learned from the experimental phase can then be applied to other like rivers and optimized to create selective fish passage at new sites (throughout the Great Lakes).”

The Boardman River was one of a dozen sites considered for the fish passage project, with other finalists including Thunder Bay, Little Manistee and Cheboygan. According to Muir, Traverse City topped the list because the Union Street Dam was already targeted for modification and fish passage upgrades as part of the Boardman River Dams Project; the river has both desired fish populations and invasive species; the city has sole ownership of the dam; and the dam can be modified within its existing footprint. The number of visitors to both Traverse City and river attractions like the weir could also draw interest to the site as “a living laboratory,” according to Muir.

According to project documents, $1 million in grant funding is available for the system through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. If commissioners support the project tonight, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission could begin hosting workshops as soon as this fall to refine a design targeted to species in the Boardman.

CVS Tax Challenge
Commissioners will consider spending up to $15,000 to hire an outside law firm to fight a tax challenge from CVS on West Front Street.

According to a memo from City Assessor Polly Cairns and City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht, Traverse City is scheduled to defend the tax challenge in a two-day trial before the Michigan Tax Tribunal in Lansing October 11-12. In 2015, the city’s assessment records listed a true cash value for CVS of $3.4 million; a second outside appraisal sought by the city for the trial determined a true cash value of $4.1 million. But CVS is challenging its assessment for both 2015 and 2016, seeking to have its true cash value lowered to $1.6 million. The move follows a transfer of ownership at the property in June, according to the memo.

Citing the existing workload of her office and the “significant amount of time” both preparation and the trial itself will take, Trible-Laucht is recommending the case be handled by outside counsel Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes, an Okemos-based firm specializing in property taxes. The case comes in the wake of frustration expressed by both city and county commissioners in the last year over “dark store” practices, in which national retailers and big-box stores have successfully challenged and lowered their local tax assessments.

Also On Tonight’s Agenda…
City commissioners tonight will also consider:
Passing an official resolution of support for a design and plan for completing the Boardman Lake Trail;
Approving a $42,000 contract with AECOM to provide design assistance for repairing the South Cass Street Bridge;
Approving nearly $211,000 in screw pump repairs at the wastewater treatment plant;
And going into closed session to discussion union negotiations with general municipal employees and the Traverse City Police Department sergeants. Commissioners could come out of closed session to vote on approving contracts with one or both groups.

Commissioners meet at 7pm at the Governmental Center.

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