Virtual event will celebrate FishPass project kick off

Published Oct. 14, 2020

FishPass project construction in Traverse City, Michigan, will kick off with a virtual groundbreaking ceremony October 24.

This final phase of the Boardman River Ecosystem Restoration Project is primarily funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and led by the Great Lakes Commission in partnership with the City of Traverse City, Fisheries and Oceans of Canada, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa/Chippewa Indians, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has provided our agencies continued opportunities to implement sustainable projects throughout the Great Lakes Region,” said Carl Platz, Great Lakes Program Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The knowledge we gain from FishPass will not only be utilized throughout the Great Lakes, but it will likely be applied across the nation as well."

USACE awarded a contract to Spence Brothers Construction of Traverse City, Michigan for $19.3 million. Construction is scheduled to begin this year and finish late in 2022.

“We are pleased that Spence Brothers has been selected to lead the construction of FishPass,” said Marty Colburn, Manager, City of Traverse City. “FishPass is a project of global significance, and we are glad that a local firm with a wealth of experience has been selected for this important project, here in Traverse City. We look forward to working closely with Spence Brothers, the Corps and the entire FishPass team over the next couple of years to make this project a reality."

The virtual groundbreaking will stream live on the official FishPass Facebook page to allow project partners and the general public to safely attend during the COVID-19 pandemic. The team will celebrate this event fittingly on World Fish Migration Day, Saturday Oct. 24 at 11a.m.

“The FishPass project will go a long way to finding solutions that enhance the Great Lakes fishery while simultaneously addressing invasive species,” said Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “EPA is excited to continue its collaboration with our federal, state, tribal, local and non-governmental partners as we move forward with the project and tackle this issue of regional and global significance.”

“One of the greatest fishery management challenges of our time is how to pass desirable fish around barriers while simultaneously blocking the movement of harmful invasive species like sea lamprey,” said Doug Stang, chair of the Canada-US Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “FishPass will be the place, the only place in the world, where an array of technologies and techniques will be evaluated to achieve that dual goal.”

FishPass will replace the aging Union Street Dam, positively impacting at least 30 key species important to the Boardman/Ottaway River and Grand Traverse Bay ecology. It will also allow fish biologist from around the world to evaluate different fish sorting technologies to combat invasive freshwater species such as the sea lamprey from moving upstream to spawn. The result will be a world-class technology and research center in a park-like setting according to project officials.

“To the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and all Aanishinaabe people the spirit of the Boardman-Ottaway River reaches back eons before logging, dams and other conquests of settlement,” said Grand Traverse Band Tribal Chair, David M. Arroyo. “To the Aanishinaabek that spirit lives on in the waters that flow here and everywhere. In that respect GTB is honored to have helped contribute to the return of the Ottaway in its purist form: a living breathing River. Without the provisions of the GLRI fueling innovations like FishPass this River and many others like her might never experience the gift of freedom from life smothering dams. For the first time in over a century the web of Great Lakes life will be allowed back into the capillaries of the watershed through the artery of FishPass. We are humbled to be part of that web.”

More information on the project can be found at: or through the following contacts: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Emily Schaefer, 313-226-4681,, City of Traverse City: Marty Colburn, 231-649-0871,, Great Lakes Fishery Commission: Marc Gaden, 734-417-8012, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Denise Fortin, 312-886-9859,


Emily Schaefer

Release no. 20-035