Little Manistee River Weir receives $2M infrastructure upgrade

The Little Manistee River Weir upgrades have begun as equipment mobilized on Tuesday. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE COUNTY — The Little Manistee River Weir is undergoing long-overdue infrastructure updates thanks to $2 million in funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Legislation approved in December 2017 provided the DNR with $12.2 million for its coolwater rearing hatchery improvements project.

For more than 50 years, the Little Manistee River Weir has served as Michigan’s primary egg collection site for steelhead and chinook salmon. However, Joe Mickevich, DNR fisheries technician supervisor, said upgrades to the facility have not been made for decades.

“The facility is 50 years old and a lot of the infrastructure was put in when it first started up,” Mickevich said. “Shortly after that, they made upgrades to it. It’s 40 to 50 years, most of the stuff being replaced. It’s just kind of falling apart.”

Mickevich said construction inside of the facility is currently in progress. The area is still open to anglers and water recreation enthusiasts.

“They fenced off half of the parking lot,” Mickevich said. “There’s still the other half of the parking lot for access to the kayak launch and access to the restrooms, and the viewing platform is still accessible.

“There is going to be, probably late summer, a point where they are going to close down access altogether for a day or so when they redo some of the driveway. That’s unforeseen as to when that will happen.”

The deadline to complete the work is mid-September.

“We need to be back up for the egg-take of the chinook salmon,” he said. “We are hoping it will be done closer to the beginning of September. They may still be wrapping some stuff up.”

Part of the work requires heavy equipment and large trucks delivering concrete and other materials, which makes the site unsafe for visitors. During these construction times, public access may be limited or interrupted.

“We know this is a popular site for anglers and paddlers and we will make every effort to minimize the disruption of access,” said Scott Heintzelman, manager of the DNR Fisheries Division’s Central Lake Michigan Unit.

Plans for the Little Manistee River Weir includes electrical, water supply and pump improvements and new holding ponds, energy efficient lighting systems and an emergency generator.

“They are going to replace some pumps and do some drain grates, most of the updates are outside the facility but still inside of the fenced in area,” Mickevich said. “The fenced in part of the facility we are tearing out the old concrete ponds we used to hold the fish in, they are building a whole new set of concrete ponds.

“The crowders that move the fish around, both the ponds and the center race way, those are getting replaced.”

The demand for stocked fish like steelhead salmon and coolwater species, specifically walleye and muskellunge, exceed the DNR’s capacity for production. Without additional stocking, officials say fertile fishing grounds would see diminished value.

“It’s our primary egg source for chinook salmon and our only egg source for steelhead,” Mickevich said. “That’s why the Little Manistee River Weir is so important.”

For more details, contact the Little Manistee River Weir hotline at (231) 775-9727, ext. 6072.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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