Biological station to get makeover

OCQUEOC TOWNSHIP – The United States Geological Survey’s Hammond Bay Biological Station will get a $6-$8 million makeover, and the public is welcome to comment on a draft environmental assessment through April.

Michael Hansen supervises the station, which is part of the Great Lakes Science Center, and said the laboratory there is old and failing. It has reached the point where it’ll cost more to maintain than to replace, so that’s the plan.

Construction of a new lab likely will start in 2015, Hansen said. It’ll be redesigned as a modern, open-concept lab, and will include raceways that can mimic stream conditions. Instead of the pumps currently used at the station, it’ll have a holding tank for Lake Huron water.

“Because of its large capacity, we’ll be able to run water through the raceways at flow rates more similar to stream flows than we can currently manage here,” he said.

That will help with the biological station’s research on sea lamprey control, Hansen said. Biologists are working to find lamprey vulnerabilities, including chemical, behavioral and mechanical. Behavioral aspects include using pheromones to lure the invasive, parasitic fish into traps, and mechanical research looks into building better traps and barriers.

Station staff also are studying lake trout reproductive behavior in northern Lake Huron, and walleye movement in the Great Lakes, Hansen said. The focus of the latter is on the connection between lakes Huron and Erie, and the population in Saginaw Bay.

Once the new lab is built and station staff verify it will serve their needs, the old one will be demolished and the site will be restored to a natural state, Hansen said. One part of the original building, formerly a U.S. Coast Guard station dating back to the 1880s, will remain intact. Its wall where the current lab connects will be restored, and possibly turned into a visitor entrance.

“One of the things the USGS mandates is that we shouldn’t increase in size the footprint we have on the landscape,” he said. “(The lab will) be the same size, but very much redesigned to be better able to handle questions we face in the future.”

There’s no set price on how much the project will cost yet, and it’ll go out for competitive bids some time after Oct. 1, Hansen said.

The project is funded by the federal government, so federal law requires an environmental impact assessment, USGS Environmental Protection Specialist Larry Herrington said. A draft assessment is available for public review and comment through April 30 at the biological station, at 11188 Ray Road. Business hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.