Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 5, 2014

Settlement in 2008 fish kill will restore river

TRAVERSE CITY — The owner of a yoga retreat center in Vanderbilt will have to pay fines and help restore the Pigeon River after a dam they operated malfunctioned and killed thousands of fish.

The State of Michigan and Golden Lotus Inc. reached a settlement this week that requires the company to pay $120,000 in fines over eight years, eliminate a pond, take down a dam, and widen the river.

The state initially wanted to fine the company $150,000 and have them remove the pond, but Golden Lotus members wanted to do more to restore the river, said Dave Borgeson, the supervisor for the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit for the fisheries division of the Department of Natural Resources said.

“We all have an affinity for the Pigeon River, so Golden Lotus, those folks love that area and didn’t want to see any more harm come to the river,” Borgeson said. “It’ll be a much more comprehensive river restoration project than just a draw-down.”

A gate malfunction on a pond in June 2008 caused the rapid release of sediment into the river. The sediment killed an estimated hundreds of thousands of fish, including brown and brook trout, by sapping oxygen from the water and clogging fish gills.

The Pigeon River is a blue-ribbon trout stream.

The Golden Lotus owns a yoga retreat center, Song of the Morning, which owns and operates the dam. A similar incident happened in 1984, and another in 1957, prior to the center owning it.

Linda Gabby, the chairperson of the Golden Lotus Board of Directors, said she was happy with the outcome.

“I think that to me what represents a victory here, other than the restoration of the river and the natural environment, is the victory of various parties coming together to identify a common purpose and moving beyond conflict to find a positive resolution that was satisfactory to all parties,” Gabby said.

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