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Grand River project pushed back to 2024

Grand River
Posted at 4:20 PM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 17:05:15-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The plan to return the Grand River to a more natural state is getting pushed back.

FOX 17 first told you on March 10 about a significant setback, where the state denied permits for the work to restore the rapids in downtown Grand Rapids.

City and community leaders planned to remove four dams this summer but ended up returning to the drawing board.

Deputy City Manager Kate Berens told FOX 17 that the earliest work could get started is the year 2024.

City engineers are at work to submit new plans for the section of the river between Bridge and Fulton streets.

grand rapids.jpg

"We're very dedicated to restoring rapids, so it'll be a different character and size and, sort of, magnitude than what we originally designed, but still expect to see and hear the sound of water creating churn and being visible," Berens said. "There will be fish habitat; [there will be] fish passage enhancements. Obviously, the dams will be gone."

The city, Grand Rapids WhiteWater and other partners spent more than a decade designing and fundraising roughly $50 million. Renderings released years ago showed the use of boulders and rocks to form rapids as a spot for people to see and even play in.

"So we had submitted design to EGLE for permitting and they have let us know that that design doesn't appear to be permittable, particularly around some of the more significant wave features," Berens said.

Grand River near Bridge Street in Grand Rapids

Despite the permit setback, the city approved, on Tuesday, to accept a $4.1 million federal grant, which is money earmarked for the removal of the four dams below 6th Street.

"So it doesn't actually get spent 'til quite some time down the road, but 'obligated' means that we've done the things that we needed to do in terms of answering questions about the projects for the federal agencies to cover their obligations to say 'yes, now you can use federal dollars on this project,'" she said.

Berens says as they work on this river design again, they plan to work on designs on the upper reach, which is between Ann and Bridge streets. Additionally, she said they might add rapids into that section of the river.

*Correction: A city official misspoke during an interview when asked about how soon work would begin, erroneously stating it would begin in 2025. The city issued a correction Wednesday morning, stating work is expected to begin in 2024. This article has been updated to reflect the corrected date.

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