Consumers Energy Aiding Endangered Aquatic Species Recovery in Grand River

LANSING, Mich., Aug. 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumers Energy is helping biologists with Central Michigan University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources give Mother Nature a hand to increase the population of endangered snuffbox mussels in the Grand River.


"It was an easy decision to say 'yes' to supporting this project to aid the endangered mussels, which in turn help filter and clean the river," said Neil Dziedzic, Consumers Energy's executive director of hydro operations. "This work aligns well with our hydro operations which produce clean, renewable energy and with our Triple Bottom Line to benefit People, Planet and Prosperity that we use to drive all our decisions at Consumers Energy."

CMU and MDNR, with funding provided by the Ionia Conservation District through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fish Passage Program, and approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' Michigan Field Office are conducting a project at Consumers Energy's Webber Dam, east of Lyons, Mich., to propagate snuffbox mussels upstream from where some of their prime habitat was degraded by a covering of sediment from a dam removal near the town of Lyons.

"This is the first time this propagation system has been used for snuffbox mussels in Michigan," said Scott Hanshue, fisheries management biologist with the MDNR. "This project would not be possible without the work being done by CMU, and we can't thank Consumers Energy enough for their willingness to provide space for us and the project team's equipment to work on their property, and for changing their operations to provide water where it's needed, a necessity for this study to be successful."

At the Webber Dam site, microscopic larval mussels called glochidia will be added to water with small fish called common logperch by CMU student researchers. The tiny mussels attach to the gills of the logperch which act as host for a short period of the snuffbox lifecycle.

The logperch — which are unharmed by their host duties — with the microscopic snuffbox will be transferred to cages in the MDNR's fish ladder at the dam about 15 days after being exposed to the glochidia where they will spend another two to four weeks.

"During the time while they're attached to the logperch, the snuffbox mussels are developing hearts, stomachs and other vital organs, as well as dropping off the logperch into sand and gravel in the cages," said Daelyn Woolnough, associate research professor in CMU's Biology Department and Institute for Great Lakes Research.

Woolnough, who is leading the project, said the snuffbox mussels will then grow for approximately 16 months in the cages until they are about half an inch long. Then, MDNR biologists, with the help of CMU, will tag and release the young mussels back into the Grand River at sites between Webber Dam and the confluence of the Maple River to augment populations of the snuffbox mussel.

"The snuffbox mussel is in a scientific family that is one of the most sensitive to changes in water quality. So, their presence in the Grand River is important and snuffbox conservation allows for them, and the 21 other mussel species around Webber Dam, to filter water of contaminants and help with cleaning the water naturally," Woolnough said. "We could not do this without all of our collaborators."

Consumers Energy's hydro operations is making sure water flows through the fish ladder to support the project. The energy provider normally diverts water to the fish ladder just twice a year — in the spring and fall — to allow salmon and steelhead to bypass the dam during their migrations.

Snuffbox mussels were put on the endangered species list in 2012 and have been endangered in Canada since 2001. They are known to exist in only 79 streams in 14 states and 1 Canadian province while historically snuffbox was known to occur in 210 streams and lakes.

Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest energy provider, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and/or electricity to 6.7 million of the state's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

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