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Lawsuit against fish hatchery on Au Sable River moves forward

Cory Seeman

A Crawford County lawsuit over river pollution received a split decision on Friday. The judge moved forward on a portion of the case that alleges a fishery along the Au Sable River is illegally polluting the river. But he threw out a dispute over the legality of the hatchery's deed.

Tom Baird is with the Anglers of the Au Sable, the plaintiffs in the case. He says the judge agreed the fish farm violated state law and should never been given a deed.

“But as the judge said we don’t have standing to bring that claim. So even though he thinks the state is violating the law, we’re not the right party to prove that. That would either need to be the DNR, the party violating the law or the attorney general.”

While the judge dismissed the deed dispute, he moved forward with another portion of the suit that alleges the fishery pollutes the river.

Baird said now the court will have to review evidence that the fishery is harmful to the river.

“The next step is to actually try the case and at that time the judge will make a decision about whether the fish farm will pollute, impair, or destroy natural resources in the river.”

Dan Vogler is with the Harriet Hills fishery, the defendants in the case. He said while Harriet Hills hoped the entire case would be dismissed, the decision did not come as a surprise.

“This decision was our motion to dismiss the whole thing. It wasn’t just summarily dismissed but it doesn’t mean the anglers, the guys that don’t like us very much, it doesn’t mean that they’ve won. It just means the judge wants to hear all the evidence first before he makes a decision.”

Vogler said the Anglers need to learn how to share the river.

“There’s certainly no admission on our part that we’ve done anything wrong because we haven’t. We are in compliance with the law and we are not doing anything detrimental to the river. The Anglers of the Au Sable are a bunch of playground bullies.”

Tom Baird, with Anglers group, said it is important to protect the best trout fishery east of the Mississippi.

A court date for the case has not yet been set.