Push to Put the Rapids Back Into the Grand Moves On

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- Although they admit that they are not the first to think of it, about 5 years ago, Chip Richards and Chris Muller decided to move ahead with the idea to restore the rapids in the Grand River. Over the last couple,  it has really picked up steam and the duo are behind a movement called Grand Rapids Whitewater.

Richards and Muller know that people are very attached to the river, so Thursday night they invited the public to a presentation a the Grand Rapids Public Museum; it was standing room only. Mayor George Heartwell welcomed the crowd, saying that he is personally committed and it “has potential to allow us to completely re-envision our city”.

“We’re volunteers you know. We’re just trying to chart it through, but we’ve been able to surround ourselves with great people who are very supportive, all the way from local government, to obviously the governor to some folks in D.C. as well as private business people.” Muller said.

A slide presentation outlined the history of the Grand River’s use and highlighted why the rapids were removed; in order to better navigate years ago. The idea is to recreate the rapids where they were years ago, from Fulton Street at the lowest end all the way up to almost Ann Street.

“Over the years we’ve used the river for industry, timber, furniture making. This is actually the first hydroelectric dam in the United States, right here on the Grand River.” Richards said.

While it is still in the planning stages, this estimated $27 million restoration still has a  list of surveys and studies to be done involving everything from fish,and  sea lamprey to economic impact. Their goal is to fix the bottom of the river so everyone can have fun on top of the river, Chip said. As it stands, presenters said Grand Rapids is rated the top sixth destination in the country for rowing and at the same status for an urban fishing river. Therefore, they are going to look at every angle of keeping these great recreational features in place.

“We’re hyper focused on getting the river project complete but we also have a stakeholder process that is in place that is already dealing with adjacent properties and we work closely with the city planning office and friends of Grand Rapids Parks and there’s a lot of energy going into more city parks and more development.” Richards stated.

Several fisherman shared their concerns along with Grand Rapids resident Donna Munro.

“This river is the way it is now for a lot of different reasons and I’m not sure that there’s a sufficient reason to put rapids in it and I’m not sure that the consequences have been well thought out yet, but it sounds like they are still studying it, so.” Munro stated.

It is still too early to put a finishing date on it, Richards added.

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  • Mike Bisbee

    The "Founders" of the proposal to remove the 6th Street Dam are misguided. Don't fix something that isn't broken. Put a few trailer hitches on our city buses and run the whitewater / kayak enthusiast's up to the mighty Muskegon river. I'll throw in $20 bucks for fuel and save the taxpayers $27,000,000.00 TWENTY-SEVEN-MILLION DOLLARS!!

  • CommonSense

    We have an economy going nowhere, no manufacturing in the state, homeless people who cannot find a meal to eat or a warm place to sleep. People out of work, no jobs to be found and others expecting to live from handouts. Crime that goes unsolved and you want more city positions cut. Mr. Mayor, you have time to worry about restoring the rapids? Maybe City Government should combine the Mayor and City Manager Jobs. That would give you time to pitch your butt kissing politics that has gotten this town nowhere in the last several years. The funding from your job could go to people who actually go to work and work each and every day.

  • sideshow

    I was unable to attend the meeting. Was anyone representing the DEQ, DNR, or USFW present to address any concerns relating to the ecosystem. Were any risks or benefits to ecosystem presented and if so by who?

    • Donna Munro

      I didn't see anyone from those agencies present, though one man did say there are grants available for scientists (and science students?) to study the possible consequences of various proposed changes, though the deadline to apply is coming up. One of the presenters feels that the change to a rapids would help sturgeon, but a fisherman said he wasn't aware that the dams had anything to do with the sturgeon's scarcity. The presenters said their engineers hadn't found much sediment and what they did find was clean, but I suspect they were looking in the wrong places. Anyone who has stepped in the river knows it's feet deep in muck and from the river's history as a garbage dump in earlier days there may be stuff stirred up that we wouldn't like. There is also concern that the lamprey eel could get in if you removed the 6th street dam, so the presenters talk about setting up a weir of some kind further upstream.

  • Donna Munro

    By the way, the dams are no more dangerous than boulders! Ever heard of portaging, people? If you want wildness, you need to make an effort to learn about the waterway you want to navigate. It's irresponsible to hop in a river without knowing what the conditions are. You're going to have to stick to the truth if you want to win me over.

  • Dan

    For more information on funding opportunity Donna commented click the link below:

    This is a chance for university scientists to lead an interdisciplinary project and objectively evaluate the pros and cons of river restoration options based on existing data. Given the amount of support for this project, and the concerns over design specifics, an integrated assessment would seek to complement existing efforts and work with groups already involved to provide an unbiased and comprehensive look at design options. Pre-proposals are due February 22.

  • walters

    this shouldn't even be considered when you have endless drive-bys and black-on-black shootings on the South side nearly every night

    priorities – get them straight !!!

  • Nate Wilson

    what i want to know is the percentage of people that kayak to the percentage of people that fish this river answer me that. I spend a lot of money in and around the Grand Rapids area to fish this world class river . You cant tell me that there will be as many people kayaking the grand as there is fishermen in the spring. do some research on what it would do to the fishing and economy around the area before you even think about doing this.

  • Michelle

    I personally would be in a wooded area to fish….quiet, no vehicle traffic,wildlife surrounding me. I am also a woman! I am not an avid fisher "person", but would rather head north.I understand there are many people that fish the Grand, but don't a majority head elsewhere. Look along the shores of the rivers where kayakers have been….do we really need more garbage in the water? I have less of a problem with the people that fish, then I do kayakers. My gut instinct is that all the glitz and glitter will dull. The river is indeed GRAND….the "rapids" not so much…..not seeing this as growth!