Fish Passage Project

An Ancient Fish, A Unique Collaboration

Lake Michigan sturgeon once numbered over two million. Fish biologists estimate that there are currently only about 3,000 adult fish–a decline of over 99%.

The Fish Passage Project was developed to enable lake sturgeon to access habitat upstream of the Menominee and Park Mill Dams on the Menominee River and to return to Lake Michigan. Sturgeon are lifted up in an “elevator” at the Menominee Dam, moved by truck and then deposited upstream of the Park Mill Dam. On the way downstream, fish slide down two “waterslides” made out of holes cut in each dam.

Sturgeon Are River Fish

The sturgeon is an ancient fish. They have evolved very little since they appeared about 200 million years ago. In spite of their distinctive looks and massive size (sturgeon can grow to be nine feet long and may weigh more than 300 pounds), sturgeon are often called “cute,” “friendly,” and “gentle.”

The sturgeon is truly a river fish; it needs the rocky, gravelly bottom and swift flow of a river to spawn. But it likes to swim in big water too, if it can get to it. For the resident sturgeon of the Menominee River, the border-forming river between Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, getting to big water—Lake Michigan—is a big problem.


Fish Passage Partnership

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided $6M in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding for this project. The dam owner, Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, also contributed significantly to the project. The Fund for Lake Michigan provided private funding. Other project partners include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin DNR, Michigan DNRMichigan Hydropower Reform Coalition and River Alliance of Wisconsin.

Check out our Facebook page to see pictures of the completed project in 2017 and a video of UW-Stevens Point graduate students sorting through fish that came up through the fish lift.