GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Fishermen Austin Bagge and Bishop Arp cast a line along the Grand River near Sixth Street Dam in Grand Rapids about once a week. Their spot can get busy.
“They (the fish) jump up the dam obviously and then they go around the smaller part of the fish ladder, but they also school up here ’cause obviously they have to get up the dam. So that’s why you have so many people fishing here rather than upstream,” Bagge told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday. “Completely shoulder to shoulder, like completely packed in.”
“That’s not a safe place for fishermen to be because it gets real crowded in there and as they get closer to the dam, it’s pretty dangerous in there,” Grand Rapids Whitewater President Richard Bishop said.
He says the project to reconfigure the Grand River and restore the rapids that his nonprofit group is leading would change that.
Grand Rapids Whitewater says it has raised about 30 percent of the cash required for the $44 million project, which has been in the works for a few years. The group’s capital campaign is set to begin in April. It is currently navigating the permit process with a number of agencies and hopes to start construction sometime in 2019.
“What we’ve got to do as part of the process is take out the four beautification dams that are in the downtown area and lower or take out the Sixth Street Dam,” Bishop said.
The Sixth Street Dam would be replaced with a hydraulic adjustable structure dam between Ann and Leonard streets.
Bishop said the current dam acts as a barrier, preventing invasive sea lamprey from getting upstream. Its replacement would continue that while helping the river restore to its natural rapid flow and enhance the habitat for wildlife.
Arp said he would appreciate a little more room to cast his line.
“I think potentially it could more space, like you said, for us fishermen and for the fish. You know, these fish are bigger; you know, they like their space,” he said.
Grand Rapids Assistant Planning Director Jay Steffen said the project is in line with the pulse of the city right now, drawing people back to the river as the city continues its economic boom.
“What we’ve seen already is this catalytic impact of this idea of once again turning and facing the river,” Steffen said.
Grand Rapids Whitewater will update downtown development leaders on the status of the restoration project at 8 a.m. Wednesday at Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.