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250K salmon delivered to GH

After receiving a surprise delivery of 76,000 salmon fingerlings in 2020, Grand Haven once again received some unexpected good news from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Paul Zelenka, president of the Grand Haven Steelheaders, said Grand Haven was originally supposed to receive 90,000 fingerlings this year. Instead, the state delivered 250,000 salmon into net pens secured between the Municipal Marina docks just upriver from the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium.

“We were supposed to get 90,000, then the state called us and said we’re going to give you 130,000, and then they called back and said no, we’re going to give you a quarter of a million,” Zelenka said.

The salmon were delivered by the DNR early Monday afternoon. Multiple tanker trucks deposited the six-month-old salmon – which measure just a few inches long – into net pens, which are owned and maintained by the Grand Haven and the Grand Rapids Steelheaders groups.

The fish will spend 2-3 weeks in the nets, getting acclimated to the Grand River, before being released.

Chinook salmon – the largest strain of the Pacific salmon – are not native to the Great Lakes. They were introduced through stocking programs since the late 1960s in order to help curb the out-of-control alewife population in Lake Michigan. Since that time, chinook salmon have become the dominant species in the Great Lakes salmon fishery.

“This is important to maintain the fishery that started back in the 1960s,” Zelenka said. “They plant fish every year, and Grand Haven has been fortunate to get fish through most of that process. Three years from now, we should have an awesome run of fish coming back up the river.”

Typically, 3-year-old salmon make their way back to the river in which they were born (or stocked) to spawn.

Bob Strek, vice president and treasurer of the Grand Rapids Steelheaders, has been involved with the net pen process for more than 15 years. He said a few weeks in the net pens help improve the survival rate of the salmon.

“The importance of the net pens is the depth here – they’re getting acclimated to deeper water,” Strek explained. “At the Wolf Lake hatchery, they’re used to less than 2 feet of water. At that point, they’re prime candidates for ducks, seagulls and cormorants.

“We do this to increase and enhance the fishing for all anglers,” he continued. “Some of these fish will go upstream and may help with the salmon runs in Grand Rapids, for example, but this is really going to benefit the Big Lake anglers 2-3 years along the road.”

The DNR has greatly reduced the number of chinook salmon stocked in Lake Michigan over the past decade, due to the diminishing number of alewives in the lake. Grand Haven received 59,000 fingerling salmon in 2015, 50,000 in 2017 and 85,000 in 2019.

Jay Wesley, the Lake Michigan Basin coordinator with the Michigan DNR, explained that the state agency works with fisheries officials from surrounding states to make sure the predator base in Lake Michigan (salmon, steelhead and lake trout) doesn’t overwhelm the prey (alewives).

“Each year, we’ll monitor the situation to determine if we’re predator heavy or prey heavy, and then we’ll make adjustments,” Wesley said last spring. “We saw what happened in Lake Huron, where there were too many chinook salmon in the system and it crashed. Salmon fishing went down for a number of years. We’re trying to avoid such a crash in Lake Michigan, and it seems to be working.”

Law enforcement
Suicidal gunman taken into protective custody after GH incident
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A suicidal man with a handgun was taken into protective custody following an incident Saturday afternoon in the area of North Beacon Boulevard just south of Jackson Street in Grand Haven.

Businesses in that area were ordered to close and employees and customers to shelter in place following a car crash and the ensuing incident.

Officers from the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety originally responded to a crash in the area at about 1 p.m. Police were informed that the drivers involved had pulled onto a service road near the Starbucks store.

When officers arrived, one of the drivers involved in the crash removed a pistol from the console of his pickup truck, according to Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke. The 60-year-old Holland man refused to comply with police commands and held the gun to his head.

“He asked several times for police to shoot him,” Hawke said.

Police on the scene immediately requested backup.

While establishing a perimeter, officers talked to the man and attempted to get him to drop the gun and surrender.

“At one point, he placed the gun on top of his pickup truck, but then walked back toward the firearm,” Hawke said. “Officers deployed a Taser, which failed.”

Officers then used “less-than-lethal baton rounds” to incapacitate the man and take him into custody.

The man was transported to North Ottawa Community Hospital to receive treatment for an arm injury and for psychological evaluation.

Hawke said the case would be reviewed by the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office.

A shift supervisor at Starbucks said they received a call sometime after 1 p.m. and locked their doors.

An employee at a hair salon across the service road to the area said the employees all went into a back room after receiving the call.

Brandie Baldus, who works at Jude’s Barbershop in the strip mall north of the service drive, was cutting a customer’s hair in the window seat station at the front of the shop when it started.

“We were right across the parking lot of where everything went down,” Baldus said. “One of my coworkers was watching the woman cop walk back and forth to the gunman’s truck and her cruiser before more officers showed up. We watched him get out of his vehicle and pull the gun on himself.

“We were contacted by the police and were instructed to lock the doors and make sure everyone was away from the windows,” Baldus continued. “We witnessed him get hit with the Taser and stand back up, and we witnessed him drop when he was shot with the rubber bullets. We were all in shock and scared of what would happen. I’m grateful nobody got hurt, and it was definitely a sight to see.”

Spring Lake resident Jack Adams said he was in the right lane of northbound Beacon Boulevard, and had stopped in traffic when he saw a man standing by his pickup truck and police with guns nearby.

“There was a guy standing between his door and the inside of the truck,” Adams said. “Police were telling him to get down on the ground, several times. He wasn’t complying. Then I heard some dull shots and people were running from there like crazy.”

Adams, a former sheriff’s deputy and a local photographer, said he pulled around into a parking lot and saw the man now on the ground, with police restraining him with their feet. When the man was being put into the ambulance, Adams said he heard him say to police that they shot him 20 times.

Adams said police likely used blanks, that he calls beanbags, in an effort to subdue the man.

Although blanks were used, Hawke said, “The excellent work of our officers today prevented a shooting. This is yet another example of the unpredictable and potentially deadly situations police officers encounter all too frequently. Incidents involving armed suicidal persons are among the most dangerous faced by police officers. Officers must make split-second decisions while trying to provide for the safety of nearby citizens, themselves and the person involved.”

Hawke said that this was the third armed suicidal person incident de-escalated by Grand Haven officers in the past few months. The previous incidents involved knives.

“I’m grateful for their willingness to stand in the gap for the community and the courage and compassion they demonstrate in the face of extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances,” Hawke said of the officers.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Michigan State Police troopers and Ottawa County Central Dispatch 911 operators assisted Grand Haven Department of Public Safety officers.

“Dispatchers play a critical role in the safe resolution of high-risk incidents, and that was evident again today,” Hawke said Saturday.

Despite his prior work as a police officer, Adams said it was something he definitely didn’t expected to see – “not on such a nice day in Grand Haven.”

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Road safety
Permanent speed signs, added enforcement eyed for M-104

Hortech owner Dave MacKenzie said that he was surprised more people didn’t know that it’s illegal to pass a vehicle on the shoulder of the road.

MacKenzie says he sees it a lot near the entrance to his wholesale nursery business at 14109 Cleveland St. in Crockery Township.

The stretch of Cleveland Street between I-96 and U.S. 31 is also known as Michigan Highway 104, or M-104.

“It’s a pinch point,” MacKenzie said during a meeting to discuss M-104 safety issues last week at the Barber School in Spring Lake. “A lot of crashes have occurred in the area because of people passing on the shoulder.”

The one time he noticed the problem ease was during an increased traffic enforcement period funded by a state grant a couple of years ago.

“We did see a lot of behavioral changes then,” MacKenzie said. “Why can’t we do that again?”

This was the fourth meeting of the safety committee made up of government, school and road officials, and business owners and police. It was pulled together by Spring Lake Township Supervisor John Nash in an effort to reduce problems on the 7-mile stretch of two-lane highway that gets busier every year.

Emphasis on the highway’s safety issues was brought forth again with the recent death of a Spring Lake woman involved in a head-on crash on April 7. In that crash, another driver attempted to pass a vehicle and struck the woman’s car. Sgt. Christie Wendt, the new supervisor of the Spring Lake branch of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, said that crash is still under investigation.

MacKenzie said he would like to see a turn lane added in front of his business and would be willing to help pay for it.

Unfortunately, there’s no money for anything like that right now, according to Marc Frederickson, director of the Muskegon-area region for the Michigan Department of Transportation. He noted that the emphasis under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is on repairing bridges and roads, not new projects.

Instead, Frederickson suggested someone look into the possibility of using a camera that would alert when a vehicle was slowing to turn. That would cause a warning sign to light up farther down the road, letting drivers know a slowdown was ahead.

Frederickson said he is aware of systems like that being used in other states, but not yet in Michigan.

MacKenzie also suggested moving the location of the speed limit signs on the highway or adding more of them.

“I think people who want to speed will do that no matter what,” he said. “But for people like me, who inadvertently speed, an extra sign can be a reality check.”

MacKenzie also suggested expanding the use of the double yellow lines that alert drivers that the area is a no-passing zone.

“The big question is, what can we do to make the best of a difficult situation?” MacKenzie said. “Each time there is a crash, all these possible solutions come up in discussions. How do we do these things (enforcement, education) on a consistent basis?”

Representatives from two local trucking companies emphasized the extensive safety training for their drivers.

“We’re very mindful of the community we function in,” said Jeff Powell, head of compliance and safety for Verplank Trucking.

Doug Meekhof, co-owner of Yellow Rose Trucking, agreed.

“This is our livelihood,” he said. “We’re done if we can’t get insurance on trucks because of accidents.”

Meekhof also mentioned a pilot program his company is doing with cameras in a handful of their trucks. “The next step is forward-facing cameras,” he said.

The emphasis on the meeting last week was what could be done right now to improve safety and what are the long-term projects, Nash said. Applying for a grant to get added police enforcement is one thing that will be done, he said. Permanent solar-powered speed signs instead of the one on a trailer is another.

Frederickson said he would also look into having the state conduct a road safety audit on M-104. This is designed to bring outside eyes on the roadway for a different perspective, he said.

Long-term options could be adding turn lanes. Nash said they would also like to get a roundabout installed at M-104 and 148th Avenue.