Reduction in coho salmon plants among DNR budget cuts
Written by Booth Newspapers   
Sunday, 12 June 2005 14:49
LANSING -- State fisheries managers plan to reduce coho salmon plants in Lake Michigan by a million smolts each of the next two years as part of an effort to shave $4 million from its budget.

The reductions are part of an effort to save $8.1 million overall in the Department of Natural Resources' Game and Fish Budget, which is facing a massive shortfall by its 2007 fiscal year.

The wildlife division plans to cut more than $3 million in programs.

Coho salmon production will be reduced to a level that the DNR will still be able to maintain its brood stock in Lake Michigan and continue stocking Lake Superior, fisheries chief Kelley Smith said. But it could have a big impact on Lake Michigan fisheries, especially in southern Lake Michigan, where there is a significant spring coho fishery.

The DNR, which has been planting about 1.7 million coho smolts in Lake Michigan annually, plans to cut the stocking by 60 percent. The cut will reduce plants to around 700,000.

The Lake Michigan coho plants will occur only at the Platte River, where the DNR collects eggs for the hatchery. The most significant cuts will come from the St. Joe River, which gets 150,000 smolts; the Grand River, which gets 250,000; and the Manistee River, which received 400,000 last year.

Smith said he realizes this will not be a popular decision, but "we don't have the money and we have to make cuts."

Cohos generally migrate clockwise around the lake, meaning Michigan ports won't be the only ones that see reduced coho numbers.

"Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin are not going to be happy," Smith said.

Reducing coho stocking will save $150,000 a year, Smith said. The DNR could return to former stocking levels if the budget improves, he added.

Other proposed fisheries division cuts (and projected two-year savings) include:

Reducing maintenance -- that includes grounds-keeping, painting and restroom cleaning -- at hatcheries and interpretive centers ($92,000).

Delaying for two years the woody debris placement project in the Au Sable River ($400,000).

Reducing inventory and assessment of lakes and streams by 30 percent to 50 percent ($257,000).

Suspending cooperative habitat projects with outside groups ($400,000).

Eliminating Atlantic salmon stocking in Torch Lake ($40,000).

Making next year's fishing regulations digest good for two years and not printing one in 2007 ($100,000).

The wildlife division says it can save $1 million by reducing the number of deer heads collected for tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease testing.

Wildlife chief Bill Moritz said the division plans to go to a more targeted disease surveillance program and would increase the collection effort if problems arise.

The wildlife division also plans to eliminate the use of all seasonal employees at game management areas. By reducing maintenance and habitat improvement projects, the division expects to save $430,000 over two years.

By eliminating its seed-purchasing agreement with Pheasants Forever, the division would save $60,000 a year. And by reducing or eliminating contracts for outside surveys and research, it hopes to save $450,000 over two years.

But, much of the division's projected savings would come by shifting some costs from the Game and Fish Fund to more restricted funds -- the Deer Range Improvement Fund, Turkey Fund, Waterfowl Fund, etc. Most of the restricted funds have budget surpluses.

The rest of the $1.1 million in Game and Fish budget savings would come from cuts in administration, forest management and law enforcement.

 
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