A permit for the Grayling Fish Hatchery to become a fish farm on the AuSable River is being challenged by anglers, and now many in the community have started to take sides.
A forum on Thursday was packed with dozens of residents listening as the hatchery argued the farm is vital for their business, while anglers fought back saying it’s detrimental to the river.
Dan Vogler is the co-owner of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm, and within a month of receiving a permit from the DEQ to farm up to 300 thousand pounds of trout each year, it was appealed.
“We do not understand why one business should be allowed to simply grow animals for agricultural purposes in a river and allow all the waste to simply go down,” said Anglers of the AuSable president, Tom Baird.
The Anglers of AuSable and Sierra Club are trying to get the permit repealed, saying the amount of phosphorus and suspended solids that the permit allows would harm the river and therefore the community.
“We don’t think that’s healthy for the river, good for the fishery or good for the business in town,” said Baird.
But dozens of residents braved the storm to hear Vogler’s reasoning for the farm.
He says it’s to help them run a sustainable business, and argues the added levels of phosphorus will actually benefit the river.
“There will actually be a better trout fishery than there has been,” said Vogler.
He says it’s the strictest commercial fishing permit in the United States, and have numerical limits for waste they cannot exceed.
“We cannot break the river, if we break the river or there are signs that we are breaking the river that can be verified, then we cannot continue,” said Vogler.
But anglers don’t think that’ll be enforced.
“I’ll tell you and I’ll be honest with you, we don’t trust the DEQ and we don’t think this permit protects the river,” said Baird.
Vogler also says that he plans to put in filters that would capture about 90 percent of the fish waste, but cannot do that while the permit is being appealed.
By: Mara Thompson