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Dr. Luttenton's North Branch Projects for 2020

Ready for some good news? Yes, there is some! While so many events and plans are being cancelled due to the Corona Virus, we are fortunate that the projects planned by Dr. Mark Luttenton, of Grand Valley State University (GVSU), for our beloved North Branch are going to happen this year.

These two projects were explained in our last newsletter but we want to reacquaint you with their purpose.

The first project is to determine the biomass of aquatic invertebrates in the North Branch. While EGLE (formerly DEQ) has stated the insect populations in the North Branch are excellent, their assessment is qualitative and not quantitative. This means there is a good representation of aquatic insects in our stream but we do not know if there is sufficient volume of these insects to support a healthy trout population. Many fishermen and property owners have noticed a significant reduction in insect hatches over the past 10 - 15 years.

The second project is to map the stream bed of the North Branch to identify the makeup of sand, gravel, cobble and silt. Sand is the enemy of a healthy trout stream and many feel the increased sand load over many years has had a serious negative effect on insect production and trout spawning. This project will require volunteer support and I am proud to advise you that ten of your board members have offered their help. This mapping will provide a vital and much needed base picture of our North Branch stream bed health.

Here is Dr. Luttenton’s recent update regarding these important projects:

1 Complete the aquatic invertebrate sampling by late May. I am guessing this will take about a week to complete.

2 Begin the habitat assessment in mid-June depending on water conditions. This will likely continue until late July or early August

3 We would like to enlist some volunteers from the groups that are involved. However, GVSU has placed some limits on how we can conduct field work this summer. We must maintain appropriate social distance, no more than one person in a vehicle, and limit the number of people present in the field to the minimum. Of course, this could all change.

4 We are currently developing a strategy to comply with the GVSU criteria. So, for the habitat work, we will likely have two crews consisting of one of the graduate students and one or two volunteers. We assume that the volunteer(s) will change from day to day (or every couple days) so that no one is over committed. The graduate student will spend about the first ½ hour going over the procedure and then into the river.

5 The graduate students will be putting together a “Field Methods” sheet that will detail the specific sequence of measurements to be taken at any given site.

Thanks to your continued financial support, our foundation has committed $12,000 to complete these two important projects. Dr. Luttenton has advised that our contribution along with support from Mason-Griffith TU Founders Chapter and Anglers of the AuSable has enabled him to secure a contribution of $53,000 from Grand Valley State University.

We look forward to providing you with the results of these projects both on our web site and in our newsletters.

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