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Court of Appeals hears arguments on Traverse City FishPass project

FishPass hearing
Teresa Homsi
Traverse City attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht presents her argument in front of the Michigan Court of Appeals on the FishPass project Oct. 4 at the Emmet County Courthouse in Petoskey.

The Michigan Court of Appeals heard arguments Oct. 4 on the proposed Traverse City FishPass project at the Emmet County Courthouse in Petoskey.

The FishPass project would create a new channel for native fish on the Boardman River and rebuild the Union Street Dam.

The city was ready to put shovels in the ground when it was hit with a lawsuit. Last year, a judge sided with a citizen, saying based on its charter, Traverse city is required to hold a vote on the project.

In the appeals court, Plaintiff attorney Jay Zelenock argued FishPass changes the park’s use outside of the charter’s acceptable uses and so requires a vote. He said the court should uphold the decision made by the trial court.

“When you're talking about contracting with other outside entities to come in and develop technology or research that are for their purposes ... that is violative of the section 120 language that the park has to be dedicated for solely park purposes,” Zelenock said.

Traverse City attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht argued the project doesn’t violate the city charter and will only increase park access.

“[If] every single project that the city does on its public lands goes to a vote of the people, that's just not the system that we have," Trible-Laucht said. "We have representatives to make those decisions. We think that this decision puts the public health and safety and environment at risk.”

The judges are expected to make a ruling in the next couple months.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at