Protecting Michigan Waters from Aquatic Invasive Species

Consumers Energy dams on the Au Sable, Manistee, and Muskegon rivers serve as barriers that prevent the spread of AIS fish, parasites, and diseases from the Great Lakes to the pristine waters of the upper rivers.

Since the 1830s, when the sea lamprey was accidentally introduced into the lower Great Lakes through a series of locks and canals that connected them to Atlantic Coastal rivers, aquatic invasive species (AIS) have been harming the ecology of the Great Lakes and the economies that rely on it. Today, more than 180 non-native species have been detected in the Great Lakes with the likelihood of the introduction of even more new invasive species.

Consumers Energy dams on the Au Sable, Manistee, and Muskegon rivers serve as barriers that prevent the spread of AIS fish, parasites, and diseases from the Great Lakes to the pristine waters of the upper rivers. Our dams also prevent the passage of Great Lakes fish that can carry contaminants like PCBs and pesticides which are taken up in the food chain and threaten the health of fish and wildlife such as eagles, mink, and otter. These are important benefits that our dams provide in preventing the spread of AIS and in protecting fish and wildlife in the upper rivers from environmental contaminants.

These invaders gain access to the Great Lakes Basin through canals and diversions, ballast water and hull fouling from ocean-going ships, fishing and aquaculture, trade in live organisms (aquarium fish and commercial bait, aquarium plants), and tourism and development activities (fishing tournaments; contaminated boats and gear).

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is spearheading a coordinated effort with the Michigan departments of Natural Resources, Transportation, and Agriculture and Rural Development to update the AIS State Management Plan (SMP). The update places a stronger emphasis on preventing the introduction, spread and early detection of aquatic invasive species. The effort also seeks to improve early detection strategies as well as rapid response actions for the eradication, control and management of AIS.

Consumers Energy is submitting comments on this revision to the AIS SMP. These comments emphasize the need to prevent the continued introduction of species that directly impact our operations and costs to our ratepayers. We also point out the strategic necessity of maintaining barriers to prevent the spread of AIS and protect Michigan’s native plants and animals.

A large component of the management plan will be public education about aquatic invasive species. Effective communication can help reduce the potential for these species to travel to new water bodies by boat or even by the bottom of a shoe. It is important that Michigan residents understand the threat of invasive species and be aware of where they are located to prevent their further spread. 

We have a strong interest in the prevention and control of AIS in Michigan. Some invasive species, such as zebra and quagga mussels, Asiatic clams, and algae can clog water intakes and disrupt power plant operations. If left unchecked, power plant water systems can also be clogged by AIS as well as fish-protection barrier nets at our fossil plants and Ludington Pumped Storage plant which necessitates frequent, often continuous cleaning to keep them functional.

Consumers Energy spends more than a million dollars each year to keep intake water systems and fish protection systems from becoming clogged by AIS. Cleaning zebra and quagga mussels off the Ludington net alone costs more than $175,000 per year. The spread of invasive plants also requires monitoring and control programs in the upstream reservoirs at many of our hydroelectric dams. The removal of these aquatic plants from hydro trash racks, which prevent their spread downstream, adds to operating and maintenance costs.