Time to sink river dredging idea

Tribune Staff • May 17, 2019 at 12:00 PM

It has become clear that the vast majority of West Michigan residents don’t want to see the Grand River dredged to allow big boats to navigate it from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven.

That’s why we strongly urge the Grand River Waterway folks to dry-dock their sinking idea.

Local municipalities along the river are passing resolutions to officially oppose it. The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners and Grand Haven City Council have done it. Most recently, the Grand Haven Township and Spring Lake Township boards passed theirs. Even the Grandville City Council, whose mayor is a prominent proponent of the proposed dredging project, approved a resolution to oppose it.

Citizens speaking at the municipal board meetings have overwhelmingly urged opposition to the idea.

State legislators from Grand Rapids have asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to review the project, stalling it before permit applications can be submitted.

Where are our local state lawmakers at on the issue? The silence, so far, has been deafening.

To be fair, Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, was not a state senator yet when Senate Bill 601 was approved in lame-duck session this past December and quickly signed into law. Ottawa County’s state senator at the time, West Olive Republican Arlan Meekhof, is a major player in supporting the dredging project.

State Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, on the other hand, did vote in support of the lame-duck state appropriations supplement that provides for funds “for dredging and any other activities necessary to complete the project, and shall be spent only if sediment tests are satisfactory and necessary permits are issued.”

What’s still a little murky is the science.

Environmentalists and scientists who have weighed in on the issue say it’s not a good idea — but without extensive, expensive studies to clearly show whether or not churning up the river bottom will expose assumed contaminants, no one can be certain.

Dredging may also result in damage to sensitive wildlife and aquatic concerns, the experts say, and possible shoreline erosion. So, that will require a widened study.

But, as Grand Haven Township Trustee Ron Redick said prior to that board voting unanimously to oppose the project, the decision they were about to make is a “no-brainer.”

Proponents have been saying that the dredging would open up the river to larger boat travel, boost local property values and promote development. That is probably true, but at what cost?

“It’s a nightmare none of us want to see,” Shannon Donley, a local activist with Lakeshore Water Protectors, told the Grand Haven Township Board on May 13.

Our sentiments exactly.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Mark Brooky, Duncan MacLean and Alexander Sinn. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to [email protected] or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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