Grand Rapids Whitewater is gaining ground in its efforts to restore the rapids, but the project rides on the implementation of an adjustable hydraulic structure (AHS) in the upper reach of the Grand River.
Grand Rapids Whitewater CEO Richard Bishop presented a few minor updates to the river restoration project, saying the organization currently is focused on gaining approval and funding for the AHS.
Most of the work for the main project will be confined to the lower reach of the river, from the Sixth Street Dam to Fulton Street, but Bishop said the AHS, in the upper reach, needs to be in place and operating before the Sixth Street Dam is removed.
The dam currently serves as a control piece for sea lampreys, which are an invasive species hostile to Great Lakes fish. The AHS is expected to be more efficient in controlling the lampreys and require less maintenance.
GR Whitewater is partnering with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which has a stake in sea lamprey control. Bishop predicted the AHS could serve as a model for other rivers with deteriorating dams where GLFC is looking for an alternative to control the lamprey population.
Bishop said the AHS project hinges on the passing of a federal budget by the end of March because a portion of the funding for the AHS will come from the budget. If a budget is passed in time, about $7 million will be appropriated to GLFC, of which GR Whitewater will receive $1.7 million-$1.8 million.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ultimately will be responsible for funding and construction of the AHS portion of the project.
Bishop said a governance committee comprised of members of the city of Grand Rapids, GR Whitewater, GLFC, the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, would manage the AHS.
The governance committee is almost in place, and a meeting is scheduled for April 16 to draft a project partnership agreement.
“All those groups and the state are going to be a part of this agreement, so all the obligations are going to be identified … and the responsibilities on how this (AHS) is going to be managed.”
GR Whitewater currently is in the process of acquiring permits from USFWS and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
GR Whitewater will begin a capital campaign April 25. To date, Bishop said the Grand River restoration project has raised over 30 percent of the close to $45-million goal.
Earlier in March, GR Whitewater received an $850,000 commitment from the Frey Foundation for assistance with frequent structure work.
According to the current project schedule, river work will begin in summer 2019, with full completion in either 2024 or 2025. No other engineers have been contracted as of yet.