Date of Award

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Bowerman, William

Committee Member

Bowerman , William

Committee Member

Jodice , Patrick

Committee Member

Bridges , William

Committee Member

Grubb , Teryl

Abstract

Consumers Energy operated hydroelectric projects located along the Au Sable, Manistee, and Muskegon Rivers underwent environmental studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing. One of the questions posed during these studies was, would passage of Great Lakes' fishes over barrier dams along these rivers cause detrimental impacts to sensitive wildlife species. Relicensing also required that the operation of all hydroelectric projects on the Au Sable, Manistee, and Muskegon rivers be maintained as run-of-river. Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were chosen as a biomonitor. This risk assessment included calculating new hazard quotients (HQs) from toxic reference values (TRVs) to determine if it was safe for inland wildlife to be exposed to anadromous fish allowed past barrier dams. A risk assessment was conducted for contaminants of PCBs, DDT, dieldrin, TCDD-EQ and mercury in a fish diet comparing exposure in Great Lakes' accessible regions to interior regions of the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon rivers, using fish collected after 1990. The bald eagle population nesting in the study area increased throughout the study period. Mean mercury was greater in fishes in inland than Great Lakes influenced. Mean total PCBs, sum DDT and dieldrin were greater in Great Lakes influenced areas. Total PCBs and sum DDT were greater in Great Lakes influenced nesting areas than inland nesting areas. TCDD-EQ was the limiting factor for bald eagle reproduction on Great Lakes influenced areas with the greatest HQ, which was greater than the adverse population level. My data suggests that if protection of wildlife from environmental contaminants is the management goal, then fish passage should not be allowed past Foote, Tippy and Croton dams. Concentrations of environmental contaminants in nestling bald eagle blood plasma confirm these results. Productivity and success increased on the Manistee and Muskegon Rivers after run-of-river implementation, but there was inconclusive supporting evidence that run-of-river was the factor for the increase.

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