February 2022 PIE&G

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February 2022


COUNTRY LINES Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op

Today’s Efforts For Sturgeon Tomorrow

New EO Programs for 2022

PIE&G Connect Fiber Update Meet PIE&G Director Lucas From Alpena


Saving is believing.

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Contents countrylines.com

February 2022 Vol. 42, No. 2



6 SUNKEN TREASURE How Jennifer Dowker found a message in a bottle and a new life. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Sweet Treats: Simple desserts that do the trick.

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

14 HATCHING A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE Stocking trout into the Great Lakes is a team effort for the Jordan River National Fish Hatchery.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey

18 GUEST COLUMN Honoring My Grandfather: Darren Bettinger reflects on his grandfather's service in World War II.


PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933. Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors. Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Eric Baker, Wolverine Power Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358 editor@countrylines.com


notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.

Be featured! Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account.


A pop of color to brighten your day. @chelseaolkowski.photo (Chelsea Olkowski)

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community



Win a $50 bill credit!

Win $150 for stories published!

Up Next: On The Grill, due March 1; Tomatoes, due April 1

Submit your fondest memories and stories at countrylines.com/community.

Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.



A Windstorm For The Record

pieg.com /PIEGCooperative/

Tom Sobeck, President & CEO


BOARD OF DIRECTORS Charles Arbour 23899 M32 S, Hillman MI 49746 989-657-4358 • Term Expires: 2023 Allan Berg, Chairman 8400 Lost Lake Rd., Hawks, MI 49743 989-734-0044 • Term Expires 2023 Sandy Borowicz, Secretary 5341 Carlson Rd.,Cheboygan, MI 49721 231-627-9220 • Term Expires 2024 John Brown, Vice-Chairman 21 W. Devereaux Lake Rd., Indian River, MI 49749 231-625-2099 • Term Expires 2023 Sally Knopf 1849 W. 638 Hwy., Rogers City, MI 49779 989-734-4196 • Term Expires 2024 Kurt Krajniak 7630 Wallace Rd., Alpena, MI 49707 989-884-3037 • Term Expires 2022 Brentt Lucas 15841 Carr Rd., Posen, MI 49776 989-766-3678 • Term Expires 2022 Daryl Peterson, Treasurer P.O. Box 54, Hillman, MI 49746 989-742-3145 • Term Expires 2024 Raymond Wozniak 6737 State St., Posen, MI 49776 989-766-2498 • Term Expires 2022 President & CEO: Thomas J. Sobeck tsobeck@pieg.com Communications Director/Co-op Editor: Mairè Chagnon-Hazelman Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op 3149 State Street (M-211), Onaway, MI 49765

Business Office & Billing: 989-733-8515 Toll-Free: 800-423-6634 Gas Emergency Toll-Free: 800-655-8565 PIE&G natural gas rates and charges are not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission. Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

n Dec. 15, 2021, the weather forecast called for sustained winds gusting to 60 mph, with the “potential for power outages” affecting the entire state. While we never exceeded 10,400 outages at any given time, our predictions showed over 22,000 services were out at some point. The state considers a storm catastrophic if more than 10% of customers lose power— or 3,500 services for us. Simply put, we’ve not experienced a storm of this magnitude in a long while, nearly setting a record for broken poles at 43! Invariably, we receive calls from frustrated members who have lost power. I get it. I understand, and I’m certainly sympathetic to anyone without power for an extended time. The outages began early on Dec. 16, and the wind never slowed down until late the following evening. Crews would make repairs to a line, only to have the wind create new damage and additional outages on the very same line somewhere else. As the winds persisted, it was “one step forward, two steps back.” No utility guarantees electric service to their customers 100% of the time, due to the realities of equipment failure, animals, and Mother Nature. This storm began on Thursday, and our linemen, crews, and all employees spent the entire weekend working extra shifts to answer phones, manage crews and equipment, and most importantly, to restore power as safely and as quickly to as many members as possible. There is a great deal of stress inherent in the process; it’s dangerous for linemen traveling the roads (and off-road into swamps and woods), working all hours of the day and night, and in the worst weather conditions. Office employees endure countless hours of speaking on the phone with people who are often in their most agitated state. As extensive events like this eventually come to an end, everyone inevitably reaches the end of their patience as well. It is at this point that we begin to realize how fortunate we are to have such knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated employees. Their expertise and willingness to continue working, regardless of personal circumstance, is remarkable. As members, some of you may have witnessed this devotion and skill in action. For the most part, that diligence is something typically only seen from the inside of PIE&G. I take this opportunity to personally thank all our employees for their tireless efforts during this and all catastrophic storm events. I am truly humbled and proud to work with them. Unlike investor-owned utilities where the focus is on shareholders, at PIE&G, our focus is on you. So, I also extend our sincere thanks for the patience of all members who lost power during this storm. Some of you actually took the time to call us to say thank you too. It is tremendously uplifting to hear those calls and we appreciate that. One last item to address is our continued effort in the Energy Optimization/ Energy Waste Reduction program that has been in place for several years now. We are no longer mandated to continue these programs, but our staff and board of directors recognize the value of helping you save energy, which also helps you save money on your electric bill. We’re working on the details of our 2022 program offerings, and invite you to look for more information soon on our website pieg.com, in our Spotlight newsletter, and in this magazine.

“ I take this opportunity to personally thank all our employees for their tireless efforts during this and all catastrophic storm events. I am truly humbled and proud to work with them.” 4 FEBRUARY 2022

Your Board In Action At its most recent meetings, the PIE&G Board of Directors: • Authorized CEO Sobeck to execute a Letter of Credit agreement with the Federal Communications Commission in order to secure the awarded Rural Digital Opportunity Fund monies. • Authorized CEO Sobeck to execute a contract with Slipstream to provide administrative services for the continued Energy Optimization/ Energy Waste Reduction program to the membership upon expiration of the mandated programming on Dec. 31, 2021. • Reviewed the long-term debt status of the cooperative. • Accepted team reports.

New year. New program. All the benefits. Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op’s Energy Optimization/Energy Waste Reduction Program With the variety of energy efficiency rebate offerings in 2022, you can save energy and money at home, at your business, or on the farm. Growing demands for energy continue to increase with modern technology, and now, more than ever, consumers have a growing appreciation for the benefits of energy-efficient products and services. The best part? Saving energy doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort, quality, or convenience. Our Energy Optimization program rewards members for their efforts with rebates, in-person consultations, and more. Save energy and enjoy the comforts of your home with a bit of help from the Energy Optimization program.

The Energy Optimization program includes rebates for: • Appliance recycling • Efficient appliances

• Efficient heating and cooling equipment • Income-qualified opportunities

• Electric vehicles and home charging

• Commercial and industrial incentives and assessments • Agriculture opportunities

To learn more, call 877.296.4319 or visit pieg.com.




t was on a volunteer trip to Jamaica that Jennifer Dowker saw her first glassbottom boat. Aside from being captivated by floating above sea life and catching a glimpse at a different world, the boat captivated Dowker’s imagination, and she caught a glimpse at a different life for herself. Dowker was at a crossroads, a single mom to three boys. Getting her captain’s license, buying a glass-bottom boat, and starting a business may not have looked like the most prudent way to support her family. “I’d pitched the idea at Invest Cheboygan, like a 'Shark Tank' for small towns,” said Dowker. “Ultimately, I didn’t win and started thinking maybe I need to do something more practical.” However, two days later, Dowker received a phone call from someone who had been in the audience and seen her pitch. He told her he thought she had what it took to make her dream a viable business. With his help, Dowker secured a loan, and Nautical North Family Adventures was born.

SUNKEN TREASURE How Jennifer Dowker Found A Message In A Bottle And A New Life By Emily Haines Lloyd



“I’d been homeschooling my boys and together, we’d put together a 38-page business plan as one of their projects,” said Dowker. “I had the foundation and thought—‘someday.’” However, the fuel of the venture came more quickly than Dowker anticipated and was ignited by the passing of Dowker’s brother, Rick, who battled cancer for five months before ultimately succumbing. “All of a sudden, ‘someday’ gained a whole new level of urgency,” said Dowker. “Before we knew it, we were taking people out on the Yankee Sunshine. My sons were all involved—helping in the office or welcoming and checking in guests. We were all coming alive.”

"The biggest lesson I’ve taken away is that even when you feel lost or broken, go a little further. Push just that little bit more.” The message was from a young man named George Morrow, and after Dowker posted about it on Facebook, the power of the internet took over, and she was finally connected with George Morrow’s daughter—Michelle. Morrow had passed in 1995, but the message in the bottle brought wonderful memories back to his daughter just in time for Father’s Day. “I love that I have had an opportunity to connect with people, to share the water I love, and to share this beautiful experience with my boys as well,” said Dowker. “But the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is that even when you feel lost or broken, go a little further. Push just that little bit more.”

Michelle Primeau and her cousin Larry, whom she was reunited with thanks to the bottle.

Nautical North Family Adventures offers shipwreck cruises with their glass-bottom boat, the aforementioned Yankee Sunshine, as well as lighthouse and river tours, scuba diving, kayak rentals, and other water-based adventures. Dowker will go out as many as five times a day and has already racked up over 900 hours on her boat. It’s a busy and rigorous schedule, but hard work never scared Dowker off.

Take it from Jennifer Dowker—there is treasure all around you, but there’s even more inside of you.

Jennifer Dowker, the moment after plucking the bottle off the bottom of Lake Huron.

“My mom always said, ‘I don’t care what other people are doing, you work harder and always do your best,’” said Dowker. “I’m constantly thinking that I can always do a little more.” That same mindset and internal fortitude could easily be held responsible for a discovery Dowker made in June 2021. While taking a prospective scuba client out on the Cheboygan River, Dowker was diving and looking for a token for her passenger to take away with them. She came across a clam shell, which in itself is pretty cool, but looked for something even more amazing. As she pulled out a small brown bottle, she decided to go out one more time and came back to the boat with an old-looking green bottle that appeared to have something inside. “Seriously, it was a message in a bottle,” said Dowker. “It’s just not the sort of thing you expect to find, even though you secretly hope you will.”

Nautical North Family Adventures 231-444-3400 /Straitsarea /nauticalnorth.familyadventures nauticalnorthfamilyadventures.com




With Director Brentt Lucas Alpena District

How long have you served on the PIE&G Board of Directors? I’ve served on the board for six years. My background is in the dairy industry, so I’ve always had an interest in the co-op model. I was familiar with agricultural co-ops and wanted to learn more about the electric co-op viewpoint. I’m honored to serve the people of PIE&G; it’s a good organization. Everyone is looking out for the members.

What’s your day job? I am a dairy farmer. It’s a family partnership with my parents and youngest brother. I’ve been dairy farming since the day I could walk. My grandfather started the farm in 1955 with 12 cows, and when my dad took over the dairy farm, it grew to 36 cows. After my brother and I graduated from the MSU Dairy Program, we built a whole new facility, and today we are milking 300 cows.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your farming operation? Yes, supply and parts are a whole different ballgame. Before, when you called a dealer, they would always have the part on hand. Now you have to cross your fingers and hope they have it. Shortages are widespread with field and farm equipment.

Tell us about your family. My wife, Michelle, and I have four children: Hailey (16), Landon (13), Brayden (9), and Eliana (4). We also host an exchange student from Turkey. The kids are active in 4-H activities, and I also serve on the local 4-H council for Alpena County. Our oldest three children enjoy raising their 4-H animals and do an outstanding job with their projects. In addition to dairy farming, I also run a small hog operation at my home with my family.

What excites you most about PIEG’s future? Getting fiber off the ground! It will make such a difference in the quality of life for our members. I struggle with the internet at the farm. Depending on the connection speed that day, it can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes to submit orders online. I know I’m not the only one whose life will be improved by a faster connection. Hailey picking out her 4-H cow.



1. F ive generations! The family gathers together to celebrate Grandma B’s life and capture the moment with all the generations in one pic. Ohh, and Montana, our Labrador, wanted in on the action as well. Mike Lavens 2. A blessing of four generations! Gloria Zalewski


Enter to win up to a


energy bill credit!


Submit Your “Plants & Flowers” Photos By Feb. 20! Submit your best photo and encourage others to vote! The photo receiving the most votes in our photo contest will be printed in an issue of Country Lines along with some of our other favorites. Our February theme is Plants & Flowers. Photos can be submitted through Feb. 20 to be featured in our April issue. To enter the contest, visit pieg.com/photocontest. Enter your picture, cast your vote, and encourage others to vote for you as well. If your photo is printed in Country Lines during 2022, you will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of four $50 credits on your January 2023 bill.



MI CO-OP Recipes

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes Submitted by MCL Readers and Tested by Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

SWEET TREATS Simple desserts that do the trick.



Meta Steeb, Great Lakes Energy ½ cup chili roasted pistachios (or chopped almonds/walnuts, roasted pistachios, etc.) 7–8 pitted medjool dates, soaked in water for 10 minutes to soften; drained 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder 2–3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or semisweet chocolate if you prefer)



energy bill credit!

10 FEBRUARY 2022

On The Grill due March 1 • Tomatoes due April 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.

Add the pistachios to a food processor and pulse a few times until broken into small pieces. Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder, and pulse until moist and sticky dough is formed. Roll into 10–12 (1-inch) balls and freeze for at least 10 minutes. Melt chocolate and, using tongs or toothpicks, dip each truffle to coat with chocolate. Optional: Add crushed nuts on top while chocolate is still melted. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos

Chocolate Mint Brownies

Double Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Brownies: 1 cup flour 1 cup sugar 2 cups chocolate syrup 4 eggs, room temperature ½ cup butter, softened Mint cream: 2 cups powdered sugar ½ cup softened butter 1 tablespoon water 1 teaspoon mint extract • green food coloring (a few drops) Chocolate topping: 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 6 tablespoons butter

¾ 1 1 2 1 1 2½ ½ 1 1 3 1 1

Theresa Mandeville, Cherryland

Preheat oven to 350 F, and grease a 9x13-inch pan. Mix all brownie ingredients together until combined and add to the 9x13-inch pan; bake 30–35 minutes. Cool completely. Meanwhile, mix together all mint cream ingredients in a small bowl. Spread mint cream over cooled brownies. Cook the chocolate topping ingredients over low heat until chocolate melts and combines with butter. Spread lightly cooled chocolate topping over mint cream layer. Refrigerate brownies for a couple of hours or until chocolate topping has hardened.

Apple Cake

eggs cups sugar cup canola oil teaspoon vanilla cups flour teaspoon baking soda teaspoon cinnamon teaspoon salt gratings fresh nutmeg cups shredded apple (I use Ida Red) 1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

cup brown sugar cup white sugar stick soft butter medium-size ripe bananas teaspoon vanilla egg cups flour cup old fashioned oats teaspoon baking soda teaspoon salt tablespoons cocoa powder teaspoon cinnamon 12-ounce bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream together the sugars, butter, bananas, vanilla, and egg in a mixer. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients of flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and cinnamon. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Mix in the bag of chocolate chips. Drop large teaspoonsized dough spaced 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8–9 minutes until they look baked but not overdone. Cool on rack or platter. This was a family favorite recipe my mother always baked—a delicious cookie where you just can’t resist taking another.

Golden Caramels

Sharon Libich, Presque Isle 3 1¾ 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 4

Valerie Donn, Great Lakes Energy

Sharon Holzhausen, Great Lakes Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together eggs and sugar. Stir in oil and vanilla. Stir together dry ingredients and fold into batter. Fold in grated apples and nuts of your choice. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch pan and bake for 45 minutes or until done when a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy with whipped cream or ice cream!

2 2 1 1 1

sticks butter cups sugar cup light corn syrup cup condensed milk teaspoon vanilla

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch pan and set aside. In a medium-size pan, add the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and condensed milk, and stir to mix. Stirring constantly, cook on high heat until the mixture boils, then turn down to medium-high heat

until the temperature reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat and add the vanilla. Pour caramel into prepared 9x13-inch pan and cool to room temperature. Once cool, slice caramels into squares with a sharp knife. Wrap the pieces individually into precut rectangular pieces of wax paper. Twist the ends of paper to hold caramels within. *Be sure to cool completely before wrapping or the paper will melt and stick to the caramels. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Progress Continues for Phase 1 of PIE&G Connect Fiber Project ork on Phase 1 of the PIE&G’s fiber project continues, as crews complete their work in the steps outlined for the project (see diagram below). The project starts with pole inspections and equipment inventory of PIE&G’s entire distribution system, starting in the Onaway area for Phase 1.


As inspections and inventory are completed on the poles in an assigned area, the information is incorporated into PIE&G’s database. PIE&G uses this information to create precise digital maps and generate work orders that enable the process to move to the next step—“Make Ready Engineering” or MRE.

Make Ready Construction has finished on a feeder (i.e., moving equipment, replacing poles, etc.,) then fiber construction crews begin the actual construction of the fiber network. Currently, crews have completed the Phase 1 inventory and have moved on to performing inspections and inventory in areas included in Phase 2. Engineering and Make Ready Construction work continues on feeders in Phase 1, along with fiber construction. We expect MRE, MRC, and construction work on Phase 1 to continue throughout 2022. Pole inventory will be completed in 2022 for Phase 2, and we’ll likely begin that

step for Phase 3 areas as well before year-end. So far, the Make Ready Engineering has been completed on feeders ON1, ON4, CC3, CC4, BL1, BL2, BL3, BL4, TW2, TW6, FB1, and FB2, representing approximately 70% of the MRE now completed for Phase 1. In terms of construction progress for Phase 1, crews have built approximately 30 miles of actual fiber network so far in the Onaway area. Stay tuned for more updates in this magazine, in PIE&G’s monthly newsletter “The Spotlight,” online at pieg.com, and on our Facebook page.

Crews are given MRE tasks through PIE&G’s specific work order diagrams containing the details of the work to be performed. Then crews begin “Make Ready Construction” (MRC) work, which involves the rearrangement or movement of communications or power assets that are currently on PIE&G’s overhead electric grid to accommodate the addition of our fiber optic cable. This MRC work may include replacement of poles to ensure the ability of the overhead electric system to support the weight of the overhead fiber strands. MRC crews may also need to move existing communications equipment on the poles to clear the space for our fiber network. After the MRC work has been completed in an area, the foundation is laid to enable the next step in the process to begin—the actual construction of the fiber network. PIE&G has engaged a contractor for this portion of the project, which began in November for Phase 1. As the project continues during Phase 1, these steps will repeat for each feeder coming out of a substation. To summarize, after the inventory and engineering work is completed in one area, Make Ready Construction crews will begin to perform their work. Once

12 FEBRUARY 2022


New year New program All the benefits Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op’s Energy Optimization program is something to get excited about! Earn rebates for:

Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op’s Energy Optimization program — same great savings and benefits members know.









They say it takes a village to raise a child. However, they forgot to mention it also takes a village to raise a fish.

HATCHING A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE By Emily Haines Lloyd || Photos by Thomas Mann


he Jordan River National Fish Hatchery (JRNFH) located in Elmira, Mich., is a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative Member, and is one of the village members who make up the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a bureau within the Department of the Interior. Jordan River National Fish Hatchery has produced native fish for stocking into the Great Lakes since 1965.

danger in the Great Lakes.

All the work JRNFH does to manage fish stocking into the Great Lakes is coordinated with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, with key support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal, provincial, state, and tribal natural resource agencies. Their mission to “conserve, protect, and enhance” fish and wildlife is a vital part of righting an environmental ship right here in Michigan that put native trout and other keystone species in

Sea lampreys, a native to the Atlantic Ocean, resemble eels but act more like a leech, as they feed on native fish once they attach. The first recorded observation of a sea lamprey in the Great Lakes was in 1835 in Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls served as a natural barrier, confining sea lampreys to Lake Ontario and preventing them from entering the remaining four Great Lakes. However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, improvements

14 FEBRUARY 2022

“The threat to these keystone species started in the middle of the 20th century,” explained Roger Gordon, a supervisory fishery biologist and hatchery manager. “There were many contributing factors from a loss of habitat to pollution, and of course, the introduction of parasite species like the sea lamprey.”

to the Welland Canal, which bypasses Niagara Falls and provides a shipping connection between Lakes Ontario and Erie, allowed sea lampreys access to the rest of the Great Lakes. Native trout are primary targets for the sea lamprey. The feeding on keystone species like lake trout, which have been in the Great Lakes since the Ice Age, leads to an imbalance in their ecosystem. It’s up to JRNFH and their aligning agencies to observe, control predators like sea lampreys (as well as humans), and restock the lakes to bring back order to the ecosystem. It’s a tall order, which is why Gordon is grateful to be part of a larger team. “This isn’t a job for just our hatchery,” said Gordon. “We work internationally with Canada, eight other states around the Great Lakes region, as well as federal, state, and tribal agencies,

not to mention research universities who help us collect and analyze data.” JRNFH is responsible for raising more than 3 million cisco, lake, rainbow, and brook trout for restoration and recreational programs in the Great Lakes region. In addition to providing healthy, high-quality fish for fishery goals and targets, the staff assists a wide array of state, federal, tribal, and public partners with natural resourcerelated projects and enhancements across the Midwest. It takes a fleet of trucks (think big milk semis) to transport and then load a large U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offshore stocking vessel. This vessel meets the trucks at various Great Lakes ports like Charlevoix, Alpena, or even Milwaukee with fish. The fish are transported to historic offshore spawning sites and released, and, as Gordan says, “we let them do their thing.”

about spawning fish in 15-degree weather with 30 mph gale winds, but there’s satisfaction and an attachment to our mission.”

Gordon describes himself and his team as “aquatic farmers” who work closely with the animals they raise and release.

The hard work is paying off. Since stocking the Great Lakes, JRNFH and its partners have actually eliminated the need for stocking Lake Superior, which is now self-sustaining. Recently, Lake Huron has rebounded as well, with just 30% of what they initially used to stock and over 50% of current fish spawned in the wild. Lake Michigan is proving tougher, but still seeing some improvement.

“We get our hands wet working with live animals every day,” said Gordon. “There’s nothing particularly pleasant

If the work continues, JRNFH hopes to see a rebalanced ecosystem for native trout—but what happens then?

“Ultimately, our job is to put ourselves out of business. To fix the problem and move onto the next one,” said Gordon. “What we do is a great example of how government can work together in a cooperative manner to get something done. None of us could accomplish any of this without the others.”

Visiting The Hatchery

The hatchery is open to the public from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week, all yearlong. The busiest time of year for visitation is the winter months, when the Jordan Valley snowmobile trail is open. Tours are self-guided unless arrangements for group tours are scheduled in advance. To schedule group tours, please call the hatchery at 231-584-2461. The hatchery abuts the North Country Trail and Jordan Valley Pathway walking trail systems and is a common stop or trailhead for walkers, hikers, hunters, and fishermen. fws.gov/midwest/jordanriver facebook.com/pages/Jordan-RiverFish-Hatchery/117253601625926



Sturgeon Guards watch MSU researchers tag adult lake sturgeon.

Today’s Efforts For Sturgeon Tomorrow By Emily Haines Lloyd


hen we think of animal rescue efforts, we likely picture a pile of fluffy kittens or the soulful chocolate eyes of a puppy needing a home.

So, if you have ever seen the diamond-shaped pupils of an adult sturgeon swimming by at six to seven feet long—it’s a lot less precious and a lot more prehistoric. Perhaps it’s that other-worldly quality that makes the folks at Sturgeon for Tomorrow so passionate about their mission. A nonprofit started in 1999, Sturgeon for Tomorrow manages annual goals and engages in partnerships to keep the lake sturgeon of the Great Lakes area alive and thriving. Its run entirely by volunteers, including Brenda Archambo—president of the Black Lake chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow—who saw her first mammoth fish as a kindergartener when she went ice fishing with her father on Black Lake located in Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op’s service territory. “I will never forget looking that sturgeon in the eye,” said Archambo. “There was this commotion coming from one of the ice shanties as they pulled out this enormous fish. It was like seeing a dinosaur in real life.” 16 FEBRUARY 2022

That experience traveled with Archambo into adulthood, as she started hearing stories of over-fishing of sturgeon, particularly as a source of caviar. In the mid-’90s, she read about a strategy to rehabilitate the lakes where sturgeon lived, and she began writing to the director of the campaign. For an entire year. “I became really invested in saving the sturgeon,” said Archambo. “Maybe it was my childhood spent in nature and receiving so much from being in it. I became focused on giving back.” Archambo began reaching out to ice anglers in Michigan. She understood that preserving sturgeon was as important to them as those looking to protect the endangered fish. The anglers agreed to skip an entire fishing season and became early volunteers who gathered along the banks of Black Lake as part of the guardian program. This eventually included hundreds of volunteers over the five-week spawning season, patrolling the water to deter poachers. Working in conjunction with law enforcement and conservation officers, the volunteers spend over 8,000 hours annually in their efforts.

“We’ve come a long way since the beginning,” said Archambo. “We’re this great group of people who care. It’s amazing what a caring community can get done.” Archambo credits the many individuals, organizations, and agencies with the success they’ve seen in sturgeon numbers rebounding. She describes it as a fourlegged stool consisting of management (regional, Growth and state, and tribal agencies), maturation assessment (academic researchers and scientists), law enforcement (regulation and officers), and progressive public involvement. “If any one of those legs weakens, we tilt,” said Archambo. “But when we’re all doing our part, staying involved, and acting, we are able to stabilize the entire process.”

JUVENILE habitat: estuaries

“The goal is to save our current population and protect future spawning,” explained Archambo. “Sturgeon don’t begin producing until they reach 20 years old, so the life cycle is something it will take a long time to fully understand and adjust our planning to support. The key is to keep vigilant.”

ADULT (15 years) habitat: bays and estuaries



EGGS habitat: major rivers

With annual plans, cooperative agency efforts, and committed volunteers, Sturgeon for Tomorrow is well on its way to saving the endangered sturgeon. But Archambo also understands that part of the mission is passing on the passion to a new generation. That’s why Sturgeon for Tomorrow’s educational wing is particularly vital. It includes a program called Sturgeon in the Classroom that vets classrooms to become stewards of small sturgeon from the hatchery. The class adopts, raises, learns about, and eventually releases the sturgeon back into a natural habitat.

Growth Hatch The balance Archambo is referring to is managing the EARLY STAGE current sturgeon population, “Watching volunteers from JUVENILE with nearly 1,100 adult a preschooler to a retired habitat: major rivers sturgeon in the system due to veteran work alongside and deltas the efforts to increase safeguards in the open air, seeing the and restock. Sturgeon can have long cooperation of so many groups and lives, with males living to approximately organizations—I love what we do,” said 80 years old and females surviving up to Archambo. “I think we’re all a little bit in awe 150 years if protected. The total population is merely of the difference we can make together because we know 1% of its historical range, and Sturgeon for Tomorrow is none of us could do it on our own.” committed to changing that trajectory.

“ I will never forget looking that sturgeon in the eye. There was this commotion coming from one of the ice shanties as they pulled out this enormous fish. It was like seeing a dinosaur in real life.”

Left: A child participates in the youth release of fall fingerling lake sturgeon raised in the stream-side hatchery. Below: SFT volunteer and certified diver Sam Staffan dives with the MSU research team to collect data on spawning adults.


Guest Column

A Glimpse Through The Thousand-Yard Stare Darren Bettinger, Midwest Energy & Communications

rowing up on the lake, I always looked forward to visits from my grandfather. He lived out of the state and would make trips over from Ohio to see us. My parents would take him up on his offers to watch us, and plan a little getaway from my sister and me. On those occasions, my grandfather would take us to the beach for swims or drive our boat while we tubed behind it. I imagine many of my Michigan neighbors share memories like these about their grandparents with me.


One of those swims sticks out in my mind, for a very sobering reason. My grandfather served aboard a Landing Ship, Tank (LST) vessel during his stint in the United States Navy, during World War II. Grandpa Verle, as we called him, helped land troops and war material shortly after the beachhead was secured in Italy and Normandy, while the fighting was still somewhat heavy. He never spoke about it much, like the many men and women who have experienced the horrors of war. I don’t know if it was the sound of the waves crashing against the shore or the weather, but I witnessed what many would come to call the "thousand-yard stare" on his face that day. I knew what was

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18 FEBRUARY 2022

bothering him, and I asked him what the war was like. His only reply was, “I saw a lot of airplanes.” You see, at the age of 10, I was very interested in World War II aircraft, and he was trying to deflect the conversation. It wasn’t until I saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan” that I understood why. When I get to missing my grandfather, I make the trip from Cassopolis to Muskegon and visit the USS LST 393 museum there. The ship is a similar vessel that my grandfather served aboard, and the staff there has done a great job preserving memories and stories of veterans from all over Michigan who served in all our nation’s conflicts throughout the 20th century. For more information, visit https://www.lst393.org/.

Darren works in quality control for a major orthopedic device manufacturing company. He is a volunteer for the Cass County Historical Society, and enjoys the Michigan outdoors with his family.

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $150 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit.

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BE PREPARED Our region can produce some extreme weather conditions, regardless of the season. Be prepared with these tips.

Items To Have On Hand • Water: At least one gallon per person, per day, plus some for pets. • Food: Nonperishable, especially items that don’t require cooking, along with a hand-operated can opener. • Lighting: Flashlights, candles, and matches.

• Telephone: Cordless phones won’t work during an outage, so have a corded phone available. • Communications: Have your mobile devices fully charged if outages are imminent so you can stay in the know. A batterypowered radio is also helpful.

• Medical: First-aid kit ready with any needed medical supplies, and filled prescriptions.

• Personal sanitation: Moist wipes, hand sanitizer, and garbage bags • Tools: Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities. • Batteries.

• Battery-powered or wind-up clock. • Extra blankets.

During A Power Outage • Stay away from downed power lines and warn others to do the same. Call us immediately to report downed power lines. • Don’t touch a person or object in contact with a power line; the electric current could flow through you. • Stay inside your car if it comes in contact with a power line.

• Turn off all appliances during an outage to avoid a circuit overload when power is restored. Leave on one lamp to know when power is restored. • Never leave burning candles unattended.

• Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed. Food will stay frozen for 36 to 48 hours in a fully loaded freezer and about 24 hours in a partially filled freezer.

Outage Reporting At Your Fingertips When you’re in the dark and trying to report your power outage, there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in a crowded phone queue waiting for the next available rep. We offer easy and convenient ways to report your outage. SmartHub: SmartHub, our secure online portal and mobile app, is the quickest and easiest way to report your outage. Sign up for SmartHub at pieg.com or download the app from your app store. Telephone: Our telephone system is equipped with an automatic outagereporting system; dial 1-800-423-6634 and follow the prompts. We must have a current telephone number for your account. Please update your account information using SmartHub or by calling our office. We have limited incoming telephone lines. If you call and receive a fast busy signal, please use one of the alternate methods, or hang up and try again. Please do not use email or social media to report your outage; these platforms are not staffed 24/7.