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Grand River dredging plan needs careful consideration

Tribune Staff • May 15, 2017 at 12:00 PM

As of now, anyone who wants to take a boat through the navigable waters of the Grand River from Lake Michigan upstream is limited to where the marked channel ends at the Bass River area in Allendale Township.

A new study released May 3 by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, however, has revealed new information about what it might take to continue a navigable all the way to downtown Grand Rapids.

The report indicates that a 50-foot-wide, 7-foot-deep channel could be created for the length of the 23-mile project, from the Bass River inlet to the Fulton Street bridge in downtown Grand Rapids. The cost? About $2.15 million, plus an additional $165,000 annually.

On the drawing board, this sounds like it could be a great project for the region, allowing for the development of new businesses along the river like marinas, restaurants and lodging, as well as possible residential development opportunity.

That’s in addition to the recreational benefit that a 40-mile river open for power boats from Lake Michigan to Grand Rapids could create. One only has to look several hours north to Indian River — located in Northern Michigan — as a prime example of a recreational waterway that serves as a great recreational and tourism asset.

But all of these grand ideas need to be given careful consideration before any dredge barge takes to the river.

Any negative impacts to the environment — fish, wildlife, plants and wetlands along the river — should be weighed and given heavy consideration. So too should concerns and considerations from those who already call the shores of the Grand River home.

And most importantly, there needs to be a serious discussion about how everything would be funded, from the initial dredging project to the annual maintenance.

Many communities have pressing needs to upgrade and repair existing infrastructure. Do communities along the river have the extra money that might be needed?

We’d hate to see a community be forced to compromise on road, bridge, water or sewer projects because they needed to pay for river dredging and upkeep.

We hope that money can be found, and if so, we think this is a wonderful project that has the potential to offer boundless recreational and financial opportunities along our state's longest river.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Mark Brooky. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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