Rapid restoration work could start in 2020

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — About three-quarters of the $44 million needed to restore the rapids to the Grand River has been raised, the organization behind the effort says, and construction could start downtown as early as next year.

“We’re moving forward and we’re going to start seeing signs of that,” Steve Heacock, who recently took over at the president and CEO of Grand Rapids Whitewater, told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday. “We’re in great shape with the fundraising. We’re at 74 percent of the money we need, much of that government but some of that private — which is very unusual for a project like this, but we’re Grand Rapids, so that’s how we do things.”

He said Grand Rapids Whitewater is working on getting all the permits it needs. The federal government has to approve the project because of endangered and invasive species in the area and then the state has to OK everything.

“We hope to be in the river next spring,” Heacock said.

He said phase one of the project will deal with a stretch of the river from I-196 to Fulton Street. Work there should wrap up in 2022 and the entire project should be done in 2025.

“People are very excited about this project and understand the nature of it,” Heacock said. “It initially was about recreation, about putting guys in kayaks and running down the river, which is a great part of it, but the environmental impact is huge, and recapturing these rapids to what they once were hundreds of years ago.”

He said Native American groups appreciate that aspect of the work.

“We really will return the rapids to what they should be to give us the namesake that we are,” Heacock said.

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