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FrequentlyAsked Questions

General Questions

  • What is the Grand River Restoration Project?

    The revitalization of the Grand River and restoration of the namesake rapids was called for by the 2011 amendments to the City’s Master Plan developed through the Green Grand Rapids process. This vision was embraced by Grand Rapids Whitewater (“GRWW”), a not-for-profit organization formed to lead revitalization of the River and restoration of the rapids in the two-and-a-half-mile stretch running through downtown.

    The vision of a revitalized river and restored rapids downtown has catalyzed a comprehensive planning process of the river banks and for approximately seven miles of the river corridor and has catalyzed the first update of the Downtown Development Plan in more than twenty years. This coordinated effort between the City and the Downtown Development Authority (a.k.a., Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.) has been branded as “GR Forward” and identified 15 “opportunity sites” along the riverbanks for public access, riverside trails, open space, neighborhood improvements and for private developments that can occur after the river is revitalized.

     The ecosystem and recreation functions of the rapids in the Grand River have been degraded by five low head dams, flood walls, urban encroachment, and channelization (dredging and grading). Bringing back the rapids to the Grand River is a comprehensive river restoration project that seeks to remove or modify the dams and enhance the channel bed and banks, to restore the ecosystem and recreation function of the historic rapids.

    This project represents a collaboration between a number of public and private entities including the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids WhiteWater, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

    The Great Lakes Fishery Commission shares the project proponents’ vision and is working with local leaders to address invasive species such as the sea lamprey.

  • Why remove the dams?

    Removing the dams facilitates the restoration of the namesake rapids currently submerged in the area between the Sixth Street Dam and Ann Street. Additionally, the dam removal will restore river connectivity for fish and other creatures and improve the river’s ability to transport sediment. Rivers, like arteries, need to be open to remain healthy. Once the dams are removed, fish and other creatures will be allowed to travel freely and access an additional 88 acres of historic habitat.

    The dams in the Grand River are extremely dangerous. Many people have been caught in the Sixth Street and Bridge Street dams and have been injured or have lost their lives due to the strong current created by the rapidly moving water. Removing the dams in Grand Rapids would allow for more people to safely use the river.

  • Will the Sixth Street Dam be removed completely or just lowered?

    There are many river users and functions to consider. Design engineers from River Restoration and other agencies are still determining the best method to restore the historic rapids near the Sixth Street Dam while allowing the most benefit for all river users. 

    All of the dams will be functionally removed from the river and more natural hydraulic elements like riffles, runs and pools will replace the existing riverwide hydraulics created by the dams. Some portion of the concrete from the dam may remain in the river as fill and foundational support for boulder grade control structures.

  • Can’t we just leave the dams?

    No dam lasts forever. The aging Sixth Street Dam as we see it today was built in 1927 and had very little maintenance done to it. We have a unique opportunity to be proactive by safely removing the dam before it fails.

  • Why do you need to add boulders and gravel to the river?

    Over the past 160 years, rocks and boulders were removed from the river bottom and used as fill for construction along the river or in the foundations of many buildings within the city. Installing boulders, rock and gravel would contribute to the aquatic diversity of the Grand River. Pocket water, eddies, seams, fast water and slow water all contribute to the oxygenation and overall health of a river. These features also provide healthy structure and habitat for fish and wildlife.

  • Aren’t rapids dangerous?

    The rapids would be far less hazardous than the current state of the river. There is an inherent danger with any “risk sport” that users accept but whitewater recreation is statistically safer than skiing, mountain biking, roller blading and many other outdoor sports according to American Whitewater. Risk is also mitigated through user knowledge, skill level and proper equipment. In-channel users will have to meet state laws for personal flotation devices, and helmets, cold water protection and other safety measures will be recommended. With any change, we recognize the need for a comprehensive public education campaign to make sure all future river users understand their limits and respect the power of a naturally flowing river.

    The design of the river very much considers user interfaces and the concentrated hydraulics are all designed to flush and not have the “keeper hole” which all of the existing dams have. Shoreline access is also being developed throughout to allow for self rescue. In the areas where shoreline access is not available, all of the features are designed for clear floating passage and no capsizing hydraulics. The larger hydraulics are located where shoreline access is open and available, on the west side of the channel. 

    The City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Whitewater have been working closely with the Grand Rapids Fire Department on the design of the in-river features and emergency access points.

  • What will happen to the Fish Ladder?

    Through extensive community engagement sessions, it is clear the Fish Ladder is an important part of the community. The Fish Ladder would not be removed but would be modified to remain functional.

  • What is the AHS?

    The proposed Adjustable Hydraulic Structure (AHS) is a uniquely designed barrier (see below) that could replace the Sixth Street Dam as the primary sea lamprey barrier on the river. The AHS structure has been proposed to be constructed approximately one mile upstream of the Sixth Street Dam. Sea lamprey escapement, upstream of the project site, would have a significant impact on the Lake Michigan fishery. The AHS is designed to ensure sea lampreys do not migrate upstream of the City of Grand Rapids. This structure will deny sea lampreys access to more than 1,900 miles of new stream habitat, which would otherwise cost the Great Lakes Fishery Commission between $1.2 million and $1.8 million annually to treat with lampricides. The proposed AHS structure is critical given just one sea lamprey escapement event upstream of Grand Rapids could inflict an estimated $60 million in economic loss.

  • How will upstream property owners be affected?

    An understandable concern from upstream property owners is that this project will “drain the pond” once the Sixth Street Dam is removed. After extensive study of the river bottom, our engineers have verified property owners from Ann Street upstream to North Park Bridge will see a minimal change in water levels. This is due to the unique geologic features of the historic bedrock rapids acting as a natural dam holding water upstream of Ann Street.

  • Is there any data to support the projected economic, social, and environmental boost?

    In addition to the environmental impacts listed above we believe the river will once again become a gathering place for social activities and recreation. In June of 2014, Grand Rapids WhiteWater released the results of an economic impact study.

    This study was conducted by the Anderson Economic Group and shows expanded recreational use of the Grand River could generate a net new economic impact of $15 million to $19 million per year. The study also found improved riverfront property utilization and taxable values could increase by $117.7 million.

  • What are sea lampreys?

    Sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) are parasitic fish native to the Atlantic Ocean. Sea lampreys parasitize other fish by sucking their blood and other body fluids. Sea lampreys are unique from many other fishes in that they do not have jaws or other bony structures, and instead possess a skeleton made of cartilage. While sea lampreys resemble eels, they are not related and are set apart by their unique mouth: a large oral sucking disk filled with sharp, horn-shaped teeth surrounding a razor sharp rasping tongue. 

    There are four native lamprey species in the Great Lakes: the American brook, northern brook, silver and chestnut lamprey. All of the native lamprey species are much smaller than sea lamprey. The largest of the native lamprey is the silver lamprey, which only reaches about half the size of an adult sea lamprey.

     Of the native lamprey species, only two are parasitic: the chestnut and silver lamprey. The silver and chestnut lamprey have a similar life cycle as sea lamprey – the big difference is that, as parasites, silver and chestnut lamprey typically do not kill their fish hosts. Thus, unlike sea lampreys, which are considered both parasites and predators, the native lamprey species that feed on fish are only considered parasites.

    The other two native lamprey species, the American brook and northern brook (the “brook” species), are non-parasitic. The brook species experience a metamorphosis similar to the parasitic species (developing eyes, fins, and a toothed mouth); however, the non-parasitic species skip the parasitic phase and instead immediately spawn after metamorphosis. The non-parasitic “brook” lamprey spend their entire life cycle in streams.

  • How will the AHS control sea lampreys?

    The proposed adjustable hydraulic structure (AHS) is a uniquely designed sea lamprey control mechanism which incorporates both inflatable and velocity barrier components to accomplish multiple goals, including flood conveyance and sea lamprey control. The AHS relies on prohibitive water velocity to prevent upstream sea lamprey migration during times when the gates must be lowered to accommodate high flow events. 

  • Who will manage the AHS barrier?

    The operations, management and maintenance associated with the AHS has been discussed for many years and is recognized as a top priority. A multi-agency public/private governance structure is being developed to further address governance concerns surrounding the proposed AHS. It is currently envisioned that the City of Grand Rapids will own and operate the AHS structure based on a set of operational priorities and protocols currently being developed with input from multiple state and federal agencies. Management of this structure will also include significant public and private input from a variety of river user groups, regulatory agencies and upstream/downstream communities.

  • Where will the proposed AHS structure be located?

    The proposed location of the AHS structure is approximately one mile upstream of the Sixth Street Dam and will be located just downstream of the train trestle bridge that crosses the Grand River. This location is at the head of the historic, and regionally rare, limestone rapids and will reveal 88 acres of namesake rapids.

  • What will happen if sea lampreys are found above the AHS?

    When barriers are involved in a river, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission completes an investigation of the entire watershed to determine any sea lamprey spread. The size and complexity of the Grand River and its tributaries present significant challenges and costs associated with conducting Sea Lamprey Control Program activities in the watershed. Investigative field work will take place prior to and during the construction of the proposed AHS. Following construction, an increased level of barrier performance monitoring will commence including trapping of adult sea lampreys, eDNA sampling and larval assessment. Like most major sea lamprey producing streams, including the Grand River, the monitoring phase is expected to continue in perpetuity. If sea lampreys are found above the AHS, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is prepared to undertake mitigation measures that include shoring up dams upstream of Grand Rapids (e.g., the Ada Dam, the Weber Dam) to ensure sea lamprey blockage, deployment of portable electric barriers and traps to prevent sea lamprey migration into critical habitat, and lampricide applications to remove sea lamprey larvae from the river and its tributaries.

  • What does the research show as far as sea lamprey in the river now, both above and below the Sixth Street Dam?

    Sea lampreys enter the Grand River from Lake Michigan and inhabit the river downstream of the Sixth Street Dam. That stretch of the river contains poor sea lamprey habitat and the stretch is not productive enough to warrant treatments in the Grand itself. Crockery and Norris creeks, located downstream of the Sixth Street Dam, are treated regularly. The upper Grand River and its tributaries have been regularly surveyed for sea lampreys since 1962. A total of 44 tributaries upstream of the Sixth Street Dam have been surveyed. Two sea lamprey escapement events have been noted upstream of the Sixth Street Dam. Larval sea lampreys were collected from Lowell Creek in 1962 and the stream was treated with TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4'-nitrophenol) in 1965. Larval sea lampreys were collected from the Rogue River during 2008, resulting in a treatment in 2009. The source(s) of escapement for each event is unknown. Harmless, native lampreys are known to occupy reaches of the watershed upstream of the Sixth Street Dam.

  • Will the AHS block Asian carp if the carp become established in the Great Lakes?

    The City of Grand Rapids, GRWW, and our project partners, have consulted with technical leadership from the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources and believe the proposed barrier in the Grand River would preserve opportunities to prevent upstream migration of asian carp in the future.

  • How can you say you are restoring river connectivity when the plan calls for a new barrier upstream?

    The historic rapids once found in Grand Rapids are regionally rare and two thirds of them are submerged under water upstream of the Sixth Street Dam. Our intent is to open the historic waters known to the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians as Gitchi Bawating, the Great Rapids. Returning the rapids will do good things for the river’s health and biodiversity. However, we share the concern of local, state and federal agencies that are tasked with controlling invasive sea lamprey. We have designed our project to stop sea lamprey before they move upstream to spawn. Lamprey spawn in the spring. During those months, the lamprey barrier would act like Sixth Street Dam, preventing lamprey from reaching spawning tributaries upriver. During other months, the AHS Governance committee could decide to lower the barrier to allow improved connectivity upstream.

  • How does this project relate/compare to the Boardman River bi-directional fish passage initiative (known as FishPass)?

    Scientists are testing technology downstream of the Boardman River’s Union Street Dam in Traverse City. This initiative, known as FishPass, aims to identify and refine technology to block undesirable species like sea lampreys while allowing the passage of desirable species like sturgeon. Technology developed at the Union Street Dam in Traverse City could be used at the new AHS structure to maximize the passage of desirable fish while blocking sea lamprey and other undesirable species.

  • Related to Environmental Impact

  • Why remove the dams?

    Removing the dams facilitates the restoration of the namesake rapids currently submerged in the area between the Sixth Street Dam and Ann Street. Additionally, the dam removal will restore river connectivity for fish and other creatures and improve the river’s ability to transport sediment. Rivers, like arteries, need to be open to remain healthy. Once the dams are removed, fish and other creatures will be allowed to travel freely and access an additional 88 acres of historic habitat.

    The dams in the Grand River are extremely dangerous. Many people have been caught in the Sixth Street and Bridge Street dams and have been injured or have lost their lives due to the strong current created by the rapidly moving water. Removing the dams in Grand Rapids would allow for more people to safely use the river.

  • Why do you need to add boulders and gravel to the river?

    Over the past 160 years, rocks and boulders were removed from the river bottom and used as fill for construction along the river or in the foundations of many buildings within the city. Installing boulders, rock and gravel would contribute to the aquatic diversity of the Grand River. Pocket water, eddies, seams, fast water and slow water all contribute to the oxygenation and overall health of a river. These features also provide healthy structure and habitat for fish and wildlife.

  • Will the deposits of toxic industrial sediment behind the Sixth Street dam be addressed?

    In 2011, GRWW and the Grand Valley Metro Council received an EPA grant to conduct sediment testing in the area between the Sixth Street Dam and Ann Street. Limited sediment was found but it was tested and deemed acceptable. Of the 45 sample points, only one returned a slightly elevated level of arsenic, a commonly found element in Michigan waterways. Additional sediment samples will be collected throughout the reach of the river as designs are finalized. 

  • How clean is the water in Grand River?

    The quality of the water in the Grand River is the best it has been since the City of Grand Rapids started tracking the water quality in the early 1970s. Over the past three decades, The City of Grand Rapids has successfully separated its sanitary and storm water sewers. There has not been an in-system (untreated) sewer overflow into the Grand River since June 2012 and Grand Rapids has eliminated all 59 in-system sanitary sewer overflow points. The quality of water flowing through Grand Rapids is also influenced by upstream sources and Grand Rapids is leading by example when it comes to protecting the water quality of the Grand River.

  • What about sturgeon? They already inhabit the river here, why do you need to ‘restore’ the rapids?

    Sturgeon are culturally significant to Native Americans and they are as important as the eagle. They are also an indicator of the river’s health. The more we learn, the more sturgeon are becoming a very interesting focal point of this project.

    Sturgeon date back 135 million years and can live for more than 100 years, reaching up to six feet in length. It is good news that there is still a small population of state-threatened sturgeon in the Grand River. However, because of the Sixth Street Dam, these historic species are unable to reach a geologically unique and expansive (historic spawning) reef of exposed limestone bedrock found between the Sixth Street Dam and Ann Street.

  • What will happen to the Fish Ladder?

    Through extensive community engagement sessions, it is clear the Fish Ladder is an important part of the community. The Fish Ladder would not be removed but would be modified to remain functional.

  • How will upstream property owners be affected?

    An understandable concern from upstream property owners is that this project will “drain the pond” once the Sixth Street Dam is removed. After extensive study of the river bottom, our engineers have verified property owners from Ann Street upstream to North Park Bridge will see a minimal change in water levels. This is due to the unique geologic features of the historic bedrock rapids acting as a natural dam holding water upstream of Ann Street.

  • Has hydroelectric generation been considered?

    Yes, and the idea has been rejected based on a cost benefit ratio. It has been determined by engineers to be too costly to consider with a payback estimated at 70 years. Recreation has a better payback than hydropower with Americans spending an average of $646 billion per year on outdoor recreation (https://outdoorindustry.org/research-tools/outdoor-recreation-economy/).

  • Is there any data to support the projected economic, social, and environmental boost?

    In addition to the environmental impacts listed above we believe the river will once again become a gathering place for social activities and recreation. In June of 2014, Grand Rapids WhiteWater released the results of an economic impact study.

    This study was conducted by the Anderson Economic Group and shows expanded recreational use of the Grand River could generate a net new economic impact of $15 million to $19 million per year. The study also found improved riverfront property utilization and taxable values could increase by $117.7 million.

  • What are sea lampreys?

    Sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) are parasitic fish native to the Atlantic Ocean. Sea lampreys parasitize other fish by sucking their blood and other body fluids. Sea lampreys are unique from many other fishes in that they do not have jaws or other bony structures, and instead possess a skeleton made of cartilage. While sea lampreys resemble eels, they are not related and are set apart by their unique mouth: a large oral sucking disk filled with sharp, horn-shaped teeth surrounding a razor sharp rasping tongue. 

    There are four native lamprey species in the Great Lakes: the American brook, northern brook, silver and chestnut lamprey. All of the native lamprey species are much smaller than sea lamprey. The largest of the native lamprey is the silver lamprey, which only reaches about half the size of an adult sea lamprey.

     Of the native lamprey species, only two are parasitic: the chestnut and silver lamprey. The silver and chestnut lamprey have a similar life cycle as sea lamprey – the big difference is that, as parasites, silver and chestnut lamprey typically do not kill their fish hosts. Thus, unlike sea lampreys, which are considered both parasites and predators, the native lamprey species that feed on fish are only considered parasites.

    The other two native lamprey species, the American brook and northern brook (the “brook” species), are non-parasitic. The brook species experience a metamorphosis similar to the parasitic species (developing eyes, fins, and a toothed mouth); however, the non-parasitic species skip the parasitic phase and instead immediately spawn after metamorphosis. The non-parasitic “brook” lamprey spend their entire life cycle in streams.

  • Why are we concerned about sea lampreys?

    Sea lampreys attach to fish with their suction cup mouth then dig their teeth into flesh for grip. Once securely attached, sea lampreys rasp through the fish’s scales and skin with their sharp tongue. Sea lampreys feed on the fish’s body fluids by secreting an enzyme that prevents blood from clotting, similar to how a leech feeds off its host. Sea lampreys are native to the Atlantic Ocean and invaded the Great Lakes in the early 20th century. In the Great Lakes, they are predators, with each individual capable of killing up to 40 pounds (more than 20 kilograms) of fish over their 12-18 month feeding period. Only one in seven fish attacked by a sea lamprey will survive, either dying directly from the attack or from infections in the wound after the initial attack. Sea lampreys entered Lake Michigan around 1936 and subsequently infested several tributaries of the lower Grand River.

    Sea lampreys spawn in streams, and sea lamprey larvae live in those streams before they grow the lethal mouth and kill fish. Sea lamprey control depends on a selective lampricide to kill the larvae or, in stream systems that are large (like the Grand River and its tributaries), barriers to prevent sea lamprey access to their spawning grounds.

  • How will the AHS control sea lampreys?

    The proposed adjustable hydraulic structure (AHS) is a uniquely designed sea lamprey control mechanism which incorporates both inflatable and velocity barrier components to accomplish multiple goals, including flood conveyance and sea lamprey control. The AHS relies on prohibitive water velocity to prevent upstream sea lamprey migration during times when the gates must be lowered to accommodate high flow events. 

  • Is the AHS a cost-effective method to control lamprey?

    Yes. If permitted access to the upper Grand River, a relatively small number of sea lampreys could produce between 135,000 and 200,000 parasitic juvenile sea lamprey. Such an event could result in the loss of almost two million fish with an economic value of about $39-$58 million. Lampricide treatment efficiency for the Grand River is estimated at 95% due to the dendritic nature of the watershed, so there will still be considerable economic loss under a treatment scenario. Applying a 95% treatment efficiency would still result in an annual production of 6,750-10,000 juveniles to Lake Michigan and an economic cost of $1,950,000 - $2,900,000 annually.

  • Who will manage the AHS barrier?

    The operations, management and maintenance associated with the AHS has been discussed for many years and is recognized as a top priority. A multi-agency public/private governance structure is being developed to further address governance concerns surrounding the proposed AHS. It is currently envisioned that the City of Grand Rapids will own and operate the AHS structure based on a set of operational priorities and protocols currently being developed with input from multiple state and federal agencies. Management of this structure will also include significant public and private input from a variety of river user groups, regulatory agencies and upstream/downstream communities.

  • Where will the proposed AHS structure be located?

    The proposed location of the AHS structure is approximately one mile upstream of the Sixth Street Dam and will be located just downstream of the train trestle bridge that crosses the Grand River. This location is at the head of the historic, and regionally rare, limestone rapids and will reveal 88 acres of namesake rapids.

  • What will happen if sea lampreys are found above the AHS?

    When barriers are involved in a river, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission completes an investigation of the entire watershed to determine any sea lamprey spread. The size and complexity of the Grand River and its tributaries present significant challenges and costs associated with conducting Sea Lamprey Control Program activities in the watershed. Investigative field work will take place prior to and during the construction of the proposed AHS. Following construction, an increased level of barrier performance monitoring will commence including trapping of adult sea lampreys, eDNA sampling and larval assessment. Like most major sea lamprey producing streams, including the Grand River, the monitoring phase is expected to continue in perpetuity. If sea lampreys are found above the AHS, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is prepared to undertake mitigation measures that include shoring up dams upstream of Grand Rapids (e.g., the Ada Dam, the Weber Dam) to ensure sea lamprey blockage, deployment of portable electric barriers and traps to prevent sea lamprey migration into critical habitat, and lampricide applications to remove sea lamprey larvae from the river and its tributaries.

  • What does the research show as far as sea lamprey in the river now, both above and below the Sixth Street Dam?

    Sea lampreys enter the Grand River from Lake Michigan and inhabit the river downstream of the Sixth Street Dam. That stretch of the river contains poor sea lamprey habitat and the stretch is not productive enough to warrant treatments in the Grand itself. Crockery and Norris creeks, located downstream of the Sixth Street Dam, are treated regularly. The upper Grand River and its tributaries have been regularly surveyed for sea lampreys since 1962. A total of 44 tributaries upstream of the Sixth Street Dam have been surveyed. Two sea lamprey escapement events have been noted upstream of the Sixth Street Dam. Larval sea lampreys were collected from Lowell Creek in 1962 and the stream was treated with TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4'-nitrophenol) in 1965. Larval sea lampreys were collected from the Rogue River during 2008, resulting in a treatment in 2009. The source(s) of escapement for each event is unknown. Harmless, native lampreys are known to occupy reaches of the watershed upstream of the Sixth Street Dam.

  • Will the AHS block Asian carp if the carp become established in the Great Lakes?

    The City of Grand Rapids, GRWW, and our project partners, have consulted with technical leadership from the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources and believe the proposed barrier in the Grand River would preserve opportunities to prevent upstream migration of asian carp in the future.

  • How does the AHS fit into DNR objectives for fishery management?

    The Michigan DNR depends on sea lamprey control for the success of its fishery management program. Without sea lamprey control, the state would not achieve its fishery objectives. A sea lamprey infestation of the Grand River and its tributaries would harm the entire Lake Michigan fishery and probably harm Lake Huron. The proposed AHS barrier will prevent the spread of sea lampreys into the Grand River and its tributaries upstream of Grand Rapids and, therefore, is integral to the DNR’s objectives of reducing the number of sea lampreys in the Great Lakes.

  • Will the AHS improve water management and help in flood control? Will it help to alleviate flooding?

    The AHS does not alleviate flooding. Any properties that currently flood will continue to flood and those properties that are required to carry flood insurance will continue to have this requirement. Sea lamprey barrier management was designed and evaluated to be effective when the flood levels are slightly lower than the existing flood levels in order to show effectiveness without harmful interference on properties. The potential reduction in flood levels is insignificant.

  • How can you say you are restoring river connectivity when the plan calls for a new barrier upstream?

    The historic rapids once found in Grand Rapids are regionally rare and two thirds of them are submerged under water upstream of the Sixth Street Dam. Our intent is to open the historic waters known to the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians as Gitchi Bawating, the Great Rapids. Returning the rapids will do good things for the river’s health and biodiversity. However, we share the concern of local, state and federal agencies that are tasked with controlling invasive sea lamprey. We have designed our project to stop sea lamprey before they move upstream to spawn. Lamprey spawn in the spring. During those months, the lamprey barrier would act like Sixth Street Dam, preventing lamprey from reaching spawning tributaries upriver. During other months, the AHS Governance committee could decide to lower the barrier to allow improved connectivity upstream.

  • How does this project relate/compare to the Boardman River bi-directional fish passage initiative (known as FishPass)?

    Scientists are testing technology downstream of the Boardman River’s Union Street Dam in Traverse City. This initiative, known as FishPass, aims to identify and refine technology to block undesirable species like sea lampreys while allowing the passage of desirable species like sturgeon. Technology developed at the Union Street Dam in Traverse City could be used at the new AHS structure to maximize the passage of desirable fish while blocking sea lamprey and other undesirable species.

  • Related to Financing The Restoration

  • How do I stay up to date on the project?

    Sign up for our emails to stay up to date on project progress.

  • Why spend that much money for a whitewater park or kayak course?

    It is a common misconception that the goal of this project is to create a whitewater park only for kayakers. Our plan is for a holistic rapid restoration and river revitalization project aimed at returning the historic namesake rapids back to the Grand River. Important opportunities have presented themselves thanks to public input and scientific discovery from sonar and sediment sampling.

    Kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and even river surfing, will be some of the many new recreational components of the Grand River Restoration project. The project also aims to improve fishing, maintain or improve rowing upstream, and create safe opportunities for drift boaters, rafters, anglers and the public to recreate in and on the Grand River. This project is expected to provide substantial social, economic and environmental benefits for the West Michigan region.

  • What is the AHS?

    The proposed Adjustable Hydraulic Structure (AHS) is a uniquely designed barrier (see below) that could replace the Sixth Street Dam as the primary sea lamprey barrier on the river. The AHS structure has been proposed to be constructed approximately one mile upstream of the Sixth Street Dam. Sea lamprey escapement, upstream of the project site, would have a significant impact on the Lake Michigan fishery. The AHS is designed to ensure sea lampreys do not migrate upstream of the City of Grand Rapids. This structure will deny sea lampreys access to more than 1,900 miles of new stream habitat, which would otherwise cost the Great Lakes Fishery Commission between $1.2 million and $1.8 million annually to treat with lampricides. The proposed AHS structure is critical given just one sea lamprey escapement event upstream of Grand Rapids could inflict an estimated $60 million in economic loss.

  • Has hydroelectric generation been considered?

    Yes, and the idea has been rejected based on a cost benefit ratio. It has been determined by engineers to be too costly to consider with a payback estimated at 70 years. Recreation has a better payback than hydropower with Americans spending an average of $646 billion per year on outdoor recreation (https://outdoorindustry.org/research-tools/outdoor-recreation-economy/).

  • Is there any data to support the projected economic, social, and environmental boost?

    In addition to the environmental impacts listed above we believe the river will once again become a gathering place for social activities and recreation. In June of 2014, Grand Rapids WhiteWater released the results of an economic impact study.

    This study was conducted by the Anderson Economic Group and shows expanded recreational use of the Grand River could generate a net new economic impact of $15 million to $19 million per year. The study also found improved riverfront property utilization and taxable values could increase by $117.7 million.

  • Is the AHS a cost-effective method to control lamprey?

    Yes. If permitted access to the upper Grand River, a relatively small number of sea lampreys could produce between 135,000 and 200,000 parasitic juvenile sea lamprey. Such an event could result in the loss of almost two million fish with an economic value of about $39-$58 million. Lampricide treatment efficiency for the Grand River is estimated at 95% due to the dendritic nature of the watershed, so there will still be considerable economic loss under a treatment scenario. Applying a 95% treatment efficiency would still result in an annual production of 6,750-10,000 juveniles to Lake Michigan and an economic cost of $1,950,000 - $2,900,000 annually.

  • How much will the total “Grand River Restoration” project cost and who is paying for it? How much of the GRRP funding is for the AHS? Are private funds being used?

    The AHS is expected to cost $15 million. The cost of treating the Grand River and its tributaries with lampricide would be $1.9 million per year, in perpetuity. Thus, the AHS will pay for itself in less than a decade and will last at least 50 years. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which receives funds for the proposed AHS from Congress and from the GLRI, will pay for the construction; no private funds are anticipated for the AHS portion of the Grand River Restoration project. The remainder of project funding for the Grand River Restoration Project will come from a mix of private donors and local, state, and federal sources. GRWW hopes to raise approximately $20 million from private resources and $10 million from state and local governmental resources.

  • Related to Fishing the Grand River

  • I’ve read that Grand Rapids is a world-class fishery. Is that true?

    Two national outdoor magazines have listed GR in the list of top 10 urban fisheries. The current angling opportunities between Fulton Street and the Fish Ladder are certainly unique and the proposed project would add 88 additional fishable acres upstream as well as improve the holding water downstream. The completed project would make Grand Rapids an even better destination fishery.

  • Does anyone care what the anglers think?

    Yes. Fishing is part of what makes the Grand River so grand. We understand and appreciate some anglers have concerns about the project. We have been working with local angling groups to share our vision and seek input from those who currently use the river most. Our goal is to make an already great fishery even better. An additional goal is to ensure sea lamprey control for decades to come.

  • Will the fishing be ruined?

    Our goal is to improve fishing by providing increased habitat, structure, more gravel, diverse flows and a varied river bottom. The migrating fish would hold better before moving upriver and local populations of walleye and bass will flourish. Over the past 160 years, tons of boulders have been removed and the river bottom was flattened. Often the best structure is a dangerous low head dam. The river could provide a higher quality fishing experience, like the St. Mary’s River in the Soo, which sees an annual economic benefit of at least $7 million dollars generated from fishing (Sault Ste. Marie Evening News; July 2, 2015).

  • Will anglers be able to wade the rapids?

    Yes. With the removal of dams, and the addition of rocks and boulders, anglers would be able to wade the river when flow rates are similar to existing conditions. We are working closely with the City of Grand Rapids and other project partners to provide additional access points into the river as well.

  • What about sturgeon? They already inhabit the river here, why do you need to ‘restore’ the rapids?

    Sturgeon are culturally significant to Native Americans and they are as important as the eagle. They are also an indicator of the river’s health. The more we learn, the more sturgeon are becoming a very interesting focal point of this project.

    Sturgeon date back 135 million years and can live for more than 100 years, reaching up to six feet in length. It is good news that there is still a small population of state-threatened sturgeon in the Grand River. However, because of the Sixth Street Dam, these historic species are unable to reach a geologically unique and expansive (historic spawning) reef of exposed limestone bedrock found between the Sixth Street Dam and Ann Street.

  • Is there any data to support the projected economic, social, and environmental boost?

    In addition to the environmental impacts listed above we believe the river will once again become a gathering place for social activities and recreation. In June of 2014, Grand Rapids WhiteWater released the results of an economic impact study.

    This study was conducted by the Anderson Economic Group and shows expanded recreational use of the Grand River could generate a net new economic impact of $15 million to $19 million per year. The study also found improved riverfront property utilization and taxable values could increase by $117.7 million.

  • What are sea lampreys?

    Sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) are parasitic fish native to the Atlantic Ocean. Sea lampreys parasitize other fish by sucking their blood and other body fluids. Sea lampreys are unique from many other fishes in that they do not have jaws or other bony structures, and instead possess a skeleton made of cartilage. While sea lampreys resemble eels, they are not related and are set apart by their unique mouth: a large oral sucking disk filled with sharp, horn-shaped teeth surrounding a razor sharp rasping tongue. 

    There are four native lamprey species in the Great Lakes: the American brook, northern brook, silver and chestnut lamprey. All of the native lamprey species are much smaller than sea lamprey. The largest of the native lamprey is the silver lamprey, which only reaches about half the size of an adult sea lamprey.

     Of the native lamprey species, only two are parasitic: the chestnut and silver lamprey. The silver and chestnut lamprey have a similar life cycle as sea lamprey – the big difference is that, as parasites, silver and chestnut lamprey typically do not kill their fish hosts. Thus, unlike sea lampreys, which are considered both parasites and predators, the native lamprey species that feed on fish are only considered parasites.

    The other two native lamprey species, the American brook and northern brook (the “brook” species), are non-parasitic. The brook species experience a metamorphosis similar to the parasitic species (developing eyes, fins, and a toothed mouth); however, the non-parasitic species skip the parasitic phase and instead immediately spawn after metamorphosis. The non-parasitic “brook” lamprey spend their entire life cycle in streams.

  • Why are we concerned about sea lampreys?

    Sea lampreys attach to fish with their suction cup mouth then dig their teeth into flesh for grip. Once securely attached, sea lampreys rasp through the fish’s scales and skin with their sharp tongue. Sea lampreys feed on the fish’s body fluids by secreting an enzyme that prevents blood from clotting, similar to how a leech feeds off its host. Sea lampreys are native to the Atlantic Ocean and invaded the Great Lakes in the early 20th century. In the Great Lakes, they are predators, with each individual capable of killing up to 40 pounds (more than 20 kilograms) of fish over their 12-18 month feeding period. Only one in seven fish attacked by a sea lamprey will survive, either dying directly from the attack or from infections in the wound after the initial attack. Sea lampreys entered Lake Michigan around 1936 and subsequently infested several tributaries of the lower Grand River.

    Sea lampreys spawn in streams, and sea lamprey larvae live in those streams before they grow the lethal mouth and kill fish. Sea lamprey control depends on a selective lampricide to kill the larvae or, in stream systems that are large (like the Grand River and its tributaries), barriers to prevent sea lamprey access to their spawning grounds.

  • How will the AHS control sea lampreys?

    The proposed adjustable hydraulic structure (AHS) is a uniquely designed sea lamprey control mechanism which incorporates both inflatable and velocity barrier components to accomplish multiple goals, including flood conveyance and sea lamprey control. The AHS relies on prohibitive water velocity to prevent upstream sea lamprey migration during times when the gates must be lowered to accommodate high flow events. 

  • Is the AHS a cost-effective method to control lamprey?

    Yes. If permitted access to the upper Grand River, a relatively small number of sea lampreys could produce between 135,000 and 200,000 parasitic juvenile sea lamprey. Such an event could result in the loss of almost two million fish with an economic value of about $39-$58 million. Lampricide treatment efficiency for the Grand River is estimated at 95% due to the dendritic nature of the watershed, so there will still be considerable economic loss under a treatment scenario. Applying a 95% treatment efficiency would still result in an annual production of 6,750-10,000 juveniles to Lake Michigan and an economic cost of $1,950,000 - $2,900,000 annually.

  • Will there be fish and/or boat passage around the AHS?

    Project proponents recognize the need for fish passage around the AHS when it is being operated as a sea lamprey barrier. A fish passage ladder, like the existing Sixth Street Dam Fish Ladder, has been designed into the proposed AHS structure and will create similar passage conditions while maintaining effectiveness as a sea lamprey barrier. Recognizing the future desires for a water trail and increased opportunities for non-motorized watercraft on the Grand River, a small craft portage is also being designed to allow passage around the AHS structure.

  • What will happen if sea lampreys are found above the AHS?

    When barriers are involved in a river, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission completes an investigation of the entire watershed to determine any sea lamprey spread. The size and complexity of the Grand River and its tributaries present significant challenges and costs associated with conducting Sea Lamprey Control Program activities in the watershed. Investigative field work will take place prior to and during the construction of the proposed AHS. Following construction, an increased level of barrier performance monitoring will commence including trapping of adult sea lampreys, eDNA sampling and larval assessment. Like most major sea lamprey producing streams, including the Grand River, the monitoring phase is expected to continue in perpetuity. If sea lampreys are found above the AHS, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is prepared to undertake mitigation measures that include shoring up dams upstream of Grand Rapids (e.g., the Ada Dam, the Weber Dam) to ensure sea lamprey blockage, deployment of portable electric barriers and traps to prevent sea lamprey migration into critical habitat, and lampricide applications to remove sea lamprey larvae from the river and its tributaries.

  • What does the research show as far as sea lamprey in the river now, both above and below the Sixth Street Dam?

    Sea lampreys enter the Grand River from Lake Michigan and inhabit the river downstream of the Sixth Street Dam. That stretch of the river contains poor sea lamprey habitat and the stretch is not productive enough to warrant treatments in the Grand itself. Crockery and Norris creeks, located downstream of the Sixth Street Dam, are treated regularly. The upper Grand River and its tributaries have been regularly surveyed for sea lampreys since 1962. A total of 44 tributaries upstream of the Sixth Street Dam have been surveyed. Two sea lamprey escapement events have been noted upstream of the Sixth Street Dam. Larval sea lampreys were collected from Lowell Creek in 1962 and the stream was treated with TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4'-nitrophenol) in 1965. Larval sea lampreys were collected from the Rogue River during 2008, resulting in a treatment in 2009. The source(s) of escapement for each event is unknown. Harmless, native lampreys are known to occupy reaches of the watershed upstream of the Sixth Street Dam.

  • Will the AHS block Asian carp if the carp become established in the Great Lakes?

    The City of Grand Rapids, GRWW, and our project partners, have consulted with technical leadership from the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources and believe the proposed barrier in the Grand River would preserve opportunities to prevent upstream migration of asian carp in the future.

  • How does the AHS fit into DNR objectives for fishery management?

    The Michigan DNR depends on sea lamprey control for the success of its fishery management program. Without sea lamprey control, the state would not achieve its fishery objectives. A sea lamprey infestation of the Grand River and its tributaries would harm the entire Lake Michigan fishery and probably harm Lake Huron. The proposed AHS barrier will prevent the spread of sea lampreys into the Grand River and its tributaries upstream of Grand Rapids and, therefore, is integral to the DNR’s objectives of reducing the number of sea lampreys in the Great Lakes.

  • How does this project relate/compare to the Boardman River bi-directional fish passage initiative (known as FishPass)?

    Scientists are testing technology downstream of the Boardman River’s Union Street Dam in Traverse City. This initiative, known as FishPass, aims to identify and refine technology to block undesirable species like sea lampreys while allowing the passage of desirable species like sturgeon. Technology developed at the Union Street Dam in Traverse City could be used at the new AHS structure to maximize the passage of desirable fish while blocking sea lamprey and other undesirable species.

  • Related to Recreation on the River

  • Why spend that much money for a whitewater park or kayak course?

    It is a common misconception that the goal of this project is to create a whitewater park only for kayakers. Our plan is for a holistic rapid restoration and river revitalization project aimed at returning the historic namesake rapids back to the Grand River. Important opportunities have presented themselves thanks to public input and scientific discovery from sonar and sediment sampling.

    Kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and even river surfing, will be some of the many new recreational components of the Grand River Restoration project. The project also aims to improve fishing, maintain or improve rowing upstream, and create safe opportunities for drift boaters, rafters, anglers and the public to recreate in and on the Grand River. This project is expected to provide substantial social, economic and environmental benefits for the West Michigan region.

  • How will rowing be affected upstream?

    The rowing pool upstream will actually be improved thanks to the proposed AHS. Recognizing the important social, recreational and economic benefits provided by rowing clubs on the Grand River, GRWW has spent considerable time studying the river bottom and the hydraulic features of the river in the Riverside Park area. 

    At the direction of the AHS Governance committee, the AHS could be operated to maintain or raise water levels upstream and ensure adequate water depths during low-flow seasons when flood control and sea lamprey protection are not the primary objectives of the AHS. This adjustability could allow national competition events to be confidently scheduled. These events have a significant economic impact on our region and are an important part of the river revitalization effort.

  • Is there any data to support the projected economic, social, and environmental boost?

    In addition to the environmental impacts listed above we believe the river will once again become a gathering place for social activities and recreation. In June of 2014, Grand Rapids WhiteWater released the results of an economic impact study.

    This study was conducted by the Anderson Economic Group and shows expanded recreational use of the Grand River could generate a net new economic impact of $15 million to $19 million per year. The study also found improved riverfront property utilization and taxable values could increase by $117.7 million.

  • Why are we concerned about sea lampreys?

    Sea lampreys attach to fish with their suction cup mouth then dig their teeth into flesh for grip. Once securely attached, sea lampreys rasp through the fish’s scales and skin with their sharp tongue. Sea lampreys feed on the fish’s body fluids by secreting an enzyme that prevents blood from clotting, similar to how a leech feeds off its host. Sea lampreys are native to the Atlantic Ocean and invaded the Great Lakes in the early 20th century. In the Great Lakes, they are predators, with each individual capable of killing up to 40 pounds (more than 20 kilograms) of fish over their 12-18 month feeding period. Only one in seven fish attacked by a sea lamprey will survive, either dying directly from the attack or from infections in the wound after the initial attack. Sea lampreys entered Lake Michigan around 1936 and subsequently infested several tributaries of the lower Grand River.

    Sea lampreys spawn in streams, and sea lamprey larvae live in those streams before they grow the lethal mouth and kill fish. Sea lamprey control depends on a selective lampricide to kill the larvae or, in stream systems that are large (like the Grand River and its tributaries), barriers to prevent sea lamprey access to their spawning grounds.

  • Will there be fish and/or boat passage around the AHS?

    Project proponents recognize the need for fish passage around the AHS when it is being operated as a sea lamprey barrier. A fish passage ladder, like the existing Sixth Street Dam Fish Ladder, has been designed into the proposed AHS structure and will create similar passage conditions while maintaining effectiveness as a sea lamprey barrier. Recognizing the future desires for a water trail and increased opportunities for non-motorized watercraft on the Grand River, a small craft portage is also being designed to allow passage around the AHS structure.

  • How does this project relate/compare to the Boardman River bi-directional fish passage initiative (known as FishPass)?

    Scientists are testing technology downstream of the Boardman River’s Union Street Dam in Traverse City. This initiative, known as FishPass, aims to identify and refine technology to block undesirable species like sea lampreys while allowing the passage of desirable species like sturgeon. Technology developed at the Union Street Dam in Traverse City could be used at the new AHS structure to maximize the passage of desirable fish while blocking sea lamprey and other undesirable species.

  • This Grand is My Grand.

    I support putting the rapids back in the Grand River. Please keep me informed on Grand Rapids WhiteWater’s progress so I can be part of this once-in-a-generation project.

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