Organizational Sign-On: Oppose and De-fund Grand River Dredging Project
April 25, 2019
The Honorable Gretchen Whitmer
Governor of Michigan
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909
Liesl Clark
Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy
Constitution Hall
P.O. Box 30473
Lansing, MI 48909
Daniel Eichinger
Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Executive Division
P.O. Box 30028
Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Governor Whitmer, Director Clark and Director Eichinger:

The Grand River is one of West Michigan’s most important natural and cultural features. It is Michigan’s longest river at 252 miles, and the center of a watershed that supports vibrant aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, the economies of many communities, and a variety of existing recreational activities for people in the region. For these reasons, we the undersigned organizations formally oppose the Grand River Waterway dredging project, and request all State funds be redirected toward enhancing the water quality, ecosystem services, and existing compatible uses of the Lower Grand River.

The 23-mile stretch of Grand River from Fulton Street bridge in Grand Rapids to the Bass River Recreation Area in Ottawa county has been proposed for dredging multiple times since the late 1800’s. Each time it has been halted or outright denied. The current project proposed by the Grand River Waterway group would accommodate yachts and powerboat traffic at the expense of recreational opportunities for canoes, kayaks, and fishing boats currently utilizing the area. The dredging itself involves removing over 100,000 cubic yards of material including soil and gravel, submerged trees and other structures from previous failed attempts. In addition to the damage dredging entails, the impacts from channelizing river systems such as the Grand River for navigation purposes are well documented and present an unacceptably high risk to water quality, ecosystems, and regional culture.

Researchers at Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension have studied the issue, reviewed cases from across the country including previous efforts in the Grand River, and compiled tangible evidence indicating the proposed dredging is unlikely to provide the benefits claimed by Grand River Waterway but is likely to cause long-term harm. The report highlights several concerns, including releasing contaminated sediment accumulated for decades from various sites along the river; damaging the river’s riparian zones crucial for nutrient cycling, flood mitigation and wildlife; disturbing benthic habitats supporting the base of the food chain in and around the river; removing spawning areas for many species of fish; and ultimately impairing the stretch for people that already use it.  

This would undo the investments many communities, organizations, and individuals have made in recent years to improve the Grand River’s water quality and use after decades of abuse and neglect. For example, the City of Grand Rapids has invested $400 million to separate the city’s sanitary sewers from its stormwater sewers to eliminate untreated sewage from spilling into the river and flowing downstream. Ottawa County has spent over $20 million to establish a “Greenway’ corridor and the Grand River Heritage Trail which has 18 access points, three of which include universally accessible launches, and highlights 60 cultural and historical features along the 44 miles to Lake Michigan where it links to the broader West Michigan Water Trail.

Accordingly, West Michigan Environmental Action Council, on behalf of the undersigned organizations ask you to stand with us and the people of West Michigan to oppose this project and prevent any further actions related to dredging from occurring before real and long lasting damage is done to this resource that already means so much to so many living things.


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