Fish farm operator leaves Michigan hatchery after court settlement
By Matt Jones
A four-year legal battle has been resolved in Michigan, U.S.A., with a fish farm receiving $160,000 settlement to vacate a hatchery on the Au Sable River. Since beginning operations at the Grayling Fish Hatchery, Harrietta Hills Fish Farm owner Dan Vogler says he has been entrenched in a conflict with the Anglers of the Au Sable sport fishing group, who challenged the farm’s discharge permit and filed a lawsuit under the state’s environmental protection act.
By Matt Jones
Harrietta Hills applied for the discharge permit as they planned to significantly increase their trout production numbers. In the lawsuit the anglers group alleged that the farm had already polluted the river and would cause further damage in the future. Vogler cites the approval of the discharge permit (which was conditional on further testing and the addition of quiescent zones) as evidence that a negative impact would be negligible.
“We felt that we had adequate science to demonstrate that the permit we were operating under adequately protected the river.” says Vogler
A Crawford County circuit judge ruled in 2016 that statute and deed restrictions meant the property should remain open to “recreating, fishing and historical purposes.” The settlement resulted from court-ordered mediation last fall.
“It came down to that they have deeper pockets than we do,” says Vogler. “We’re a small family farm, we’re not large producers by any imagination. We just could not withstand years and years more litigation.”
Vogler says Michigan is a challenging state for aquaculture – while he considers his business a small family farm, he believes they are the largest producer in the state. For now, Harrietta Hills have consolidated operations to another facility they run in Wexford County. The Anglers of the Au Sable group will now run the hatchery as a tourism and educational attraction.