Lake board, DNR join forces
Written by Houghton Lake Resorter   
Thursday, 02 December 2004 09:38

A new spirit of cooperation between the Department of Natural Resources and the Houghton Lake Improvement Board was bolstered at the board?s Nov. 23 meeting when the board agreed to fund two fishery-related projects.

Tom Rozich, DNR Fisheries biologist, brought a proposal to the board to replicate a creel census study which was done in 2001, before Houghton Lake was treated in the spring of 2002 to remove an infestation of Eurasian watermilfoil, an exotic plant species that had taken over a large percentage of the lake.

The study will provide information on the fishery in Houghton Lake after the herbicide treatment, which can then be compared to the earlier study to see what effect the removal of the aquatic vegetation had on fish populations in the lake.

Rozich said that for $50,000, DNR Fisheries will hire and train the staff needed to conduct the creel census, provide equipment and analyze and share the data with the HLIB and other researchers. The study is tentatively set to begin in spring 2005.

Rozich also presented a proposal for the construction of a new 3.5 acre walleye rearing pond at the DNR Fisheries facility near Merritt. The new pond would increase the acreage dedicated to the production of walleye fry to 12.5 acres which could produce between 250,000 and 300,000 fry per year.

Construction of the pond will begin in summer 2005 and the pond will be ready for production in 2006. Walleye fry from the ponds are shared throughout the state with Houghton Lake continuing to receive plantings every other year. The HLIB approved an expenditure of $50,000 for the project.

HLIB Chairman James Deamud told the Resorter that the board had been trying to establish a meaningful dialogue with the DNR for several months, and the cooperative projects denoted "a whole change in attitude on both sides" toward working together for the preservation and betterment of Houghton Lake.

"The line in the sand has been obliterated," Rozich said in a telephone interview after the meeting, adding that he would begin planning work on the creel census and putting together a bid package for excavation and well installation at the pond site immediately.

The importance of adequate water flow through the Cut River, which is especially critical during walleye spawning periods during the spring, was discussed, with Rozich noting that irresponsible operation of the dam at Higgins Lake has caused natural reproduction failures in the past.

He provided the board with information on devices that can be used to document the erratic water flow and said that the Fisheries Division will be sending a formal complaint to the Roscommon County Board of Commissioners on the current operation of the dam.

County Commissioner Roman Pacella, who is the commission?s representative on the HLIB, was asked to relate the HLIB?s concerns and suggestions to the county board and push for the creation of a joint dam operations committee.

The board also approved a $78,000 contract with Progressive AE for services in 2005. Provided in the contract, which will cost the HLIB approximately $30,000 more than last year, was an agreement to conduct an additional aquatic vegetation survey early in the season to better identify the location of invasive species of plant and allow for control measures, including the use of herbicides and milfoil weevils, to be done in a more timely manner.

Another addition will be the production and publication of a guidebook containing information on a wide range of issues facing the lake, its watershed and actions that are being taken by the board to help preserve it.

The board also heard a presentation by Doug Henderson of ReMetrix detailing hydroacoustic and diver assessments of the aquatic vegetation in Houghton Lake over the past four years. They recorded aquatic plant coverage of 36.6% in 2001, 16.3% in 2002, 5.4% in 2003 and 10.5% in 2004. Pam Tyning of Progressive AE said the results are in line with the HLIB?s management goals.

The next HLIB meeting will be held at Denton Township Hall on January 18, beginning at 7 p.m.

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