The Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources, and Michigan Department of Attorney General announced today that a civil lawsuit has been filed today in 46th Judicial Circuit Court, Otsego County, naming Golden Lotus, Incorporated (GLI) as a defendant and alleging violations of various state environmental laws resulting in a significant fish kill in the Pigeon River.
GLI has owned and operated the Song of the Morning Ranch dam and the impoundment located in the Pigeon River Country State Forest since May 26, 1969. The function of the dam is to control the water level in the impoundment, which is accomplished by allowing water to pass through two underflow gates and released downstream. It is the ultimate responsibility of the GLI to ensure that the operation and maintenance of the dam does not cause harm to the Pigeon River, or the surrounding wildlife.
On or about June 22, 2008, a significant discharge of water from the dam caused water levels in the impoundment to drop, drastically increasing the downstream flows to the Pigeon River and transporting massive amounts of sediment downstream, which caused an extensive fish kill in this blue-ribbon trout stream. This is the third discharge from the dam documented by the state and the second directly attributable to GLI.
The DNR and the DEQ are working together to assess the full extent of the damages incurred by the June 2008 discharge of sediment and severe flow fluctuations in the Pigeon River. It is the intent of the state to hold GLI responsible by seeking a long-term solution designed to protect the health of the Pigeon River and its aquatic resources.
Today’s civil action is seeking relief requiring the GLI to eliminate illegal discharges of sediment-laden water from the GLI-owned dam to the Pigeon River; monetary damages for the value of the loss of public resources and recreational opportunities along with the costs associated with rehabilitating the Pigeon River to conditions that existed prior to the release of sediment; and removal of the dam owned by GLI. The DNR and the DEQ are also seeking reimbursement for all costs associated with this enforcement action and statutory fines and attorney’s fees.