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Grand River project would boost local economy

• Mar 18, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Boating has always been a key aspect of recreation in our lakeshore community. Lake Michigan, Spring Lake, Lake Macatawa and countless other inland lakes and rivers throughout Michigan provide a wonderful setting for a day on the water.

Recently, positive steps have been made to add another body of water to this list — the Grand River.

Grand River Waterway, a local nonprofit group, has been working to make the Grand River safe for boaters from Grand Haven to downtown Grand Rapids. This project would have a positive economic impact in our community. A recent economic study by the Anderson Economic Group concluded that making the river more accessible to boaters would generate $57 million in economic activity in the first 10 years.

The study also estimates that the dredging project would increase riverfront property values by 16.9 percent — adding $54.4 million in value and increasing property tax collections for our local government

These economic numbers could be even bigger once the project is completed. There is very little development along much of the Grand River. Once the river is safe for boating, I believe that we will see new marinas, riverside restaurants, campgrounds and other new recreational opportunities. The possibilities are endless.

The initial stages of the project are already underway. In 2018, the State of Michigan appropriated just over $3 million for environmental testing and dredging, bringing this project one step closer to reality. Because most of the river is already deep enough to accommodate recreational boating, the state would only have to do minimal dredging over the course of the 40 miles of river between Grand Haven and Grand Rapids.

Currently, the state is preparing to conduct soil tests to make sure there are no contaminants at the proposed dredge sites. Once these tests are completed, there will be several more environmental impact studies before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will approve a permit for dredging. These environmental tests are rigorous — and they should be. Dredging can only begin once the tests are completed and the DEQ is satisfied that all environmental standards are met.

The Grand River is a public waterway held in trust by the state to ensure the river can be accessed and enjoyed by all. This project seeks to enhance this underutilized asset so that even more Michiganders can enjoy the river. There are many more steps to go, but I think this is a project that all of us in West Michigan can be excited about.

About the writer: Arlan Meekhof served two terms in the state Senate, from 2001 to 2008. The West Olive Republican represented the 30th District, which includes all of Ottawa County.

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