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Local News Summary - November 24, 2021 Edition

Huron Pines installs timber bridge over Hunt Creek
Conservation organization Huron Pines has completed the fourth in a series of road/stream crossing restoration projects reconnecting vital coldwater habitat on two tributaries of the Thunder Bay River.

A new timber bridge now stands where Schmallers Road crosses Hunt Creek southwest of Atlanta. It replaces a set of three undersized steel pipe culverts that had been causing Hunt Creek to flow too fast through the crossing, contributing to erosion and creating a barrier for fish.

The completed project comes on the heels of three other road/stream crossing restorations Huron Pines implemented on nearby Gilchrist Creek: A timber bridge was installed at Harwood Road in August 2020, followed by an aluminum arch culvert at Greasy Creek Road and a timber bridge at Carter Road this summer. These four projects restored the natural flow of Gilchrist Creek and Hunt Creek, both of which connect to the Thunder Bay River.

“Hunt Creek is a designated trout stream and supports healthy populations of brook and brown trout,” said Josh Leisen, Senior Project Manager for Huron Pines. “Most of Hunt Creek flows through a well-forested landscape and, along with Gilchrist Creek, is one of the highest quality streams in the Thunder Bay River Watershed.”

Leisen said the former crossing at Schmallers Road was narrow and that fast currents caused road material to wash into Hunt Creek. This input of sediment into the stream buries natural gravel beds which are essential spawning habitat for trout and refuge for macroinvertebrates like mayfly and caddisfly larvae on which trout feed. Additionally, water rushing through the culvert kept fish from accessing headwaters upstream of the crossing.

“By going with a timber bridge, we reconnected more than 10 miles of stream and eliminated that fish barrier,” he said. “The bridge deck will be paved and that will eliminate the sediment input and road maintenance issues there.”

Hunt Creek holds unique significance in Michigan’s fishing history as the home of Hunt Creek Fisheries Research Station. Established on the banks of the creek in the 1930s, the facility was a place for researchers to experiment with fishing regulations, habitat improvement methods and fish stocking efforts. With several lakes and a stretch of Hunt Creek on site, all surrounded by an expanse of state-owned land, researchers could conduct controlled experiments in one giant outdoor laboratory.

“Much of the fundamental technology we use today, like electrofishing surveys, were practiced early on at Hunt Creek,” said Todd Wills, a researcher with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Division. Later research at the facility looked at the effects of fishing regulations and sediment input on trout populations, as well as the compatibility of trout species and the viability of different trout strains for stocking efforts. The DNR closed the facility around 2011 and now leases it to Lake Superior State University.

“Hunt Creek has a really neat history of work that has not only steered the management of coldwater trout in Michigan but across the United States,” Wills said.

The Schmallers Road timber bridge project cost approximately $350,000. Funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Fish Passage Program, Great Lakes Fishery Trust and Walters Family Foundation. Montmorency County Road Commission provided in-kind labor. It was managed by Huron Pines, with KPM Engineering and John Henry Excavating handling the engineering and construction, respectively.

Huron Pines is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1973 to conserve and enhance Northern Michigan’s natural resources to ensure healthy water, protected places and vibrant communities. With offices in Gaylord and Alpena, Huron Pines strives to improve economic, environmental, educational and recreational opportunities throughout Northern Michigan. To learn more, visit huronpines.org.

More staff needed to increase MCCOA client services
Client services from the Montmorency County Commission on Aging could be increased with more staff. At the regular MCCOA board meeting on Nov. 18, Maureen Kent, registered nurse, said clients for personal care and respite are currently receiving services every other week.

“I could easily use three or four more people,” Kent said. “A lot of people need to be seen more than every other week, but, because of staffing, I can’t.”

According to Kent, the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency has more clients available to MCCOA through a waiver program. Waiver clients do not have to live in Montmorency County to be served by MCCOA. NEMCSA does not reimburse MCCOA for mileage for serving those clients, but MCCOA does pay mileage to employees.

Discussion took place about paying MCCOA’s in-home service employees their regular wages for travel hours. They are currently being paid minimum wage for travel time. The change would cost MCCOA an additional estimated $36,000 per year.

“If the board decides to do that, this is a big deal for our staff,” said Julie Kendrick, board member.

Elaine Ableidinger, board member, suggested not voting on the matter until the new budget figures are obtained. Regarding the budget, NEMCSA has agreed to provide grant funding to MCCOA for home-delivered meals, congregate meals and homemaking even though the deadline for requesting funding had passed.

Treasury reminds military members about special benefits
In honor of Veterans’ Day, this year, the Michigan Department of Treasury reminded current and former military members of special benefits they may be entitled to receive. Individuals with questions about tax relief and other benefits for current and past military members can visit Michigan.gov/Treasury and click on “Contact Us.” Program-specific phone numbers can be found on the “Contact Us” webpage.

Military pay is exempt from Michigan tax, and the program provides undergraduate tuition assistance to the children of Michigan veterans who were totally and permanently disabled, are missing in action, or died while serving. Students may receive up to $11,200.

Disabled veterans are exempt from tax on real property used and owned as a homestead. Active-duty personnel can retain a principal residence exemption while on active duty if their property is rented or leased.

Property owned by a serviceperson cannot be sold to pay delinquent property taxes during a tour of active duty. A serviceperson, veteran, widow or widower whose income outside of military compensation is no more than $7,500 per year may be eligible for a summer property tax deferment.

The spouse of an individual in the military may not be subject to the state’s taxation if they are a nonresident of the state, the service member is present in the state because of military orders, the spouse is solely in the state to accompany a service member, and the spouse maintains a domicile in another state.

“The Michigan Department of Treasury will work closely with our military members, past and present, to ensure they get the tax benefits and other resources they deserve,” Rachel Eubanks, state treasurer, said in a press release. “If you have questions about any of these benefits, please contact us so we can talk about your options.”

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