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Restoring rapids in Grand Rapids may begin as soon as 2017, but…

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An effort to restore the rapids to the Grand River in Grand Rapids is slowly making progress.

The rapids that gave Michigan’s second-largest city its name are long gone. The plan is to remove a few old dams, add more natural boulders and improve land along the riverfront.

“The exact date of construction is unknown,” said Jay Steffen, an assistant planning director for the city.

“I’m sorry for sort of the non-answer. But we have to be very careful not to build up or bring expectations that we cannot meet later,” he said.

But, he added, “I think it would be fair to say, and optimistically speaking, that we’d like to be under construction with phase one sometime in 2017.”

Steffen hopes the city will apply for state permits for the project by December. Depending on how that process and fundraising goes, construction would follow.

“This could be a 5 year project. This could be a 15 year project. We’re just hoping for the best,” Steffen said.

At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, a special committee released recommendations to move the project from the planning stage to implementation.

The committee recommended the city commission create a “conservancy-like” organization to coordinate fundraising, construction, and management of the project in the long term.

“The last thing we want to do is to build something and to let it fall apart,” Steffen said.

The city commission will still have the ultimate decision to authorize any changes to the river.

There’s also a “dry” portion of the restoration effort that includes new parks, flood mitigation, and riverfront land redevelopment.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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