In his recent budget proposal to the legislature for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has recommended that Lake Superior State University receive funding for its planned Center for Freshwater Research and Education.
The center, which is a proposed $12 million expansion of LSSU’s existing Aquatic Research Laboratory, would be housed in a building near the west end of the Cloverland Electrical Cooperative power plant on the St. Mary’s River. The project would greatly enhance LSSU’s research capabilities and would be an economic driver for the state.
The governor’s recommendation for LSSU is one of five higher education projects that ranked the highest in capital outlay scoring evaluations in their respective categories.
“The Center for Freshwater Research and Education will help connect LSSU’s faculty expertise and students to the Great Lakes economy by providing a state-of-the-art facility to not only conduct freshwater research, but also provide public education and outreach,” said LSSU President Tom Pleger. “With our location in the heart of the Great Lakes, along an international border, we have the perfect location for such a facility and we are pleased that the governor and legislature recognize the importance and need for this project.”
Since 1977, LSSU’s current Aquatic Research Laboratory has been a model of a public-private partnership in research, education, and outreach, providing important economic, educational, and scientific benefits to the region. The lab has been stocking Atlantic salmon in the St. Mary’s River for more than 25 years, which has created a world-class fishery in the upper Great Lakes that is valued at over $9 million to the Michigan economy. Research efforts have brought in more than $2 million just in the past five years.
All the while, the lab has assisted with the training of hundreds of students who are employed in the fisheries and water resources field. Nearly half of the employees in the Mich. Dept. of Natural Resources Fisheries Division are LSSU alumni.
“We are excited to see the governor’s support of CFRE and his recognition of the ecological and economic importance of freshwater resources in the state of Michigan,” said Dr. Ashley Moerke, who directs the lab with co-director Dr. Kevin Kapuscinski. “We are eager to begin the renovation and expansion, which will elevate LSSU’s ability to contribute to conservation and management of freshwater resources. The center, which already sees more than 3,500 visitors per year, mainly school groups, will provide a critical community resource for northern Michigan. Our students, faculty and visiting scientists will be able to conduct broader research contributing to managing Great Lakes fisheries and water quality, as well as raise more and healthier fish that support economically important recreational fisheries.”