Since 1977, Lake Superior State University’s Aquatic Research Lab (ARL) has been housed in a small, two-story section of the east end of Cloverland Electric’s hydro plant. Cloverland and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have supported the lab, and students handle the day-to-day operations while receiving hands-on experience in freshwater research and fish culture. These LSSU graduates obtain jobs in fish and wildlife management, hatchery operations, ecology, and other biological sciences. The hatchery raises and releases approximately 30,000 Atlantic salmon into the St. Marys River each year.
The ARL has outgrown its current space, and given our unique location at the nexus of three Great Lakes, are well positioned to play an important role in increasing scientific understanding and education of Great Lakes issues. Therefore, LSSU and the State of Michigan have decided to invest in a new Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE) to increase capacity in freshwater education and science to ensure that the Great Lakes remain great.
The new $13.2 million CFRE building will be positioned along the St. Marys riverfront near Alford Park. The facility, co-named in honor of Richard and Theresa Barch who donated $1 million dollars, will provide space dedicated to public outreach, a K-12 discovery room, office space for researchers, and labs for conducting research on fish culture and management, emerging contaminants, and invasive species. In addition, LSSU is working with the City of Sault Ste. Marie to create an outdoor educational park surrounding the CFRE that will provide waterfront access to the community. Local businesses such as Central Savings Bank and Old Mission Bank, and LSSU alumni have made generous contributions towards the $4.35 million fundraising campaign. The new site, as former LSSU President Peter Mitchell told community leaders participating in “visioning” sessions, will allow the university to be creative in the design, but keep to the CFRE’s core mission to combine education, community engagement, and research on freshwater issues in the Great Lakes region to ensure sustainable management of our valuable natural resources. Construction began in summer 2019 with expected completion in 2021.