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It was supposed to be a milestone in the decades-long journey to restore the Boardman River, a celebrated trout stream that flows through Traverse City before emptying into Grand Traverse Bay.
In January, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that construction crews were days from breaking ground on the plan’s final phase: replacing an old mill dam with a structure, dubbed FishPass, that would double as a research hub with the potential to revolutionize fish recovery efforts around the globe.
FishPass would be a testing ground for technology that’s designed to allow some fish species to pass upstream beyond the dam, while locking less desirable fish downstream. If successful, it could be a possible solution to the devastating impact of dams, which can decimate fish populations by blocking their access to rivers and streams. Proponents envision the project assisting fish recovery efforts globally, from Michigan waterways to the Mekong River in Vietnam…
But days before construction was to begin, a judge temporarily halted the project in response to a lawsuit brought by local residents opposed to it. The residents say the suit allows them to raise concerns that they were unable to voice as the project was being planned. FishPass supporters, though, condemn the suit as “not-in-my-backyard” obstructionism that will raise costs and delay environmental research.