New funding will help local nonprofit advance Grand River restoration efforts

A major financial award is making big waves for the future of the Grand River.

Last week, Grand Rapids Whitewater (GRWW), a local nonprofit, announced the award of about $4 million, with the funding made possible through a partnership with the Grand Valley Metro Council. The money will go toward advancing in-stream habitat restoration efforts associated with the Grand River Revitalization and Rapids Restoration project, an initiative founded to restore wildlife and entertainment options a long a 2.2-mile stretch of the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids.

The restoration project, which initially began with a simple goal of creating a place to kayak and canoe the river in the summer when no one was using the river, has since expanded to a larger project thanks to public input and sediment sampling. 

“The project has moved up river toward the recently discovered head of the original rapids just south of Ann St. Kayaking and canoeing will be one recreational component of many that will enhance the river’s image and contribute to the exciting new downtown vibe,” says the GRWW website. 

The $4 million Grand Valley Metro Council award comes on the heels of an earlier $8 million funding initiative granted through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which was bestowed upon the Grand River Restoration Project in November of last year.

Federal funding for the “Lower Grand River Watershed Habitat Restoration – Farmland Conservation Project” comes through the 2014 Farm Bill’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, authored by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan). The five-year project will spend over half of the funding on restoring habitat for fish and endangered species in the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids, while the remaining funds will be used to implement water quality improvements in the Indian Mill Creek and Rogue River Watersheds.

“This funding announcement provides a significant boost in momentum for the rapids restoration project and is a direct result of ongoing collaborations between Grand Rapids Whitewater, the Grand Valley Metro Council, the city of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., and several local philanthropic foundations,” says GRWW President Chris Muller, whose organization has been leading efforts to revitalize the Grand River and restore its namesake rapids since 2010. 

For more than half a decade, GRWW has raised over $5 million in private donations and funding and received the Urban Waters Federal Partnership designation in 2013.

“We are grateful for federal support for this important project, and we thank Sen. Debbie Stabenow and others for their work in laying the foundation for this critical funding,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said in a  press release last week. “This is a tremendous step forward as we work together to restore the Grand River and transform it into an asset for not only downtown but the entire region.”

To learn more about the GRWW and its partnerships, visit www.grandrapidswhitewater.org

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids White Water 
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