River City Wild Ones explores our “river roots”.

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River City Wild Ones met at the Grand Rapids Public Museum last Monday, August 15th to hear the latest updates on the Grand Rapids Revitalization Project. Despite the museum being closed and the looming threat of thunderstorms, a good group met on the lawn to listen to Wendy Ogilvie of the Grand Valley Metro Council and Matt Chapman of Grand Rapids?Whitewater

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Wild Ones gather around to look at the plan for revitalizing the Grand River

Wendy talked about the history of the Grand River and the need for damming the rapids in the last century. In those days, logs were floated down the Grand for use in the furniture industry primarily. The logs would get hung up in the rapids, so a system of small dams was built to “level” the river. Today, with other methods of transport, those dams are no longer needed and prohibit access to the river, presenting unnecessary risks.

 

 

 

Matt discussed the plan to restore the rapids by removing five dams, beginning with the Sixth Street Dam. This process will uncover the natural limestone bedrock, which will restore a natural spawning?ground for lake sturgeon, one of the oldest?and threatened?native fish species. Boulders will be at key locations to bring back the natural whitewater and many of the existing concrete flood walls will be replaced with graduated shoreline access points. (Hopefully planted with lots of native shoreline plants to help control erosion and flooding.) The project has many social, economic and environmental benefits for our community including enhanced tourism and recreational activities such as kayaking, fishing and rafting. Economists estimate a $285 million boost in new development investments, which will bring in 1,520 related jobs.
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Matt Chapman of Grand Rapids Whitewater explains the project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, a project of this scale is bound to have many challenges. In addition to the obvious issues of fundraising and state and federal permits, there is concern for preventing unwanted invaders like the sea lamprey from swimming upstream. A rare and federally endangered species of mussel called the snuffbox mussel was discovered during the many hours of research and impact studies that have gone into this. These mussels will have to be collected and moved to a safe location during construction! However, there are plans in place to address all of these issues and the project is moving ahead. Visit their website to learn more.

The outing?concluded with a walk along the Grand to the fish ladder, which will not be removed. ?Many thanks to Wendy and Matt for a lovely and informative evening!

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The existing fish ladder will not be removed as a part of the project.

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Wild Ones look on as Wendy Ogilvie explains access points planned along the Grand River.

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