Grand River project raises questions in Ottawa Co.

Ottawa County

POLKTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Ottawa County commissioners on Tuesday will learn more about a proposal to dredge the Grand River, allowing boaters to travel from downtown Grand Rapids all the way to the lakeshore.

County commissioners say the Tuesday afternoon meeting is an opportunity to gather all the facts and then decided whether to support the project, oppose it or stay neutral. 

People living along the Grand River haven’t made up their minds, either.

Joe said after retirement, he chose to live in rural Ottawa County along the Grand River because it was the closest thing to the way he grew up in Northern Italy.

The water is quiet now, but starting next month, neighbors will put in their pontoons and powerboats.

Joe is worried dredging will bring more boats by his home. 

“That’s what I was afraid of,” he said. 

The proposal is to dredge portions of the Grand River between Grand Rapids and Eastmanville, creating a 50-foot wide channel large enough to accommodate watercraft that are 26 feet or larger.

“Is it going to cost me money?” Joe asked.

The short answer is yes, but how much is unclear. The full cost to taxpayers has yet to be determined. 

The man behind the project is Dan Hibma, a West Michigan developer who is also the husband of former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. He will be pitching the project at the Tuesday’s meeting.

A state study estimates the project would cost roughly $165,000 in annual maintenance alone. But supporters anticipate it would potentially bring in millions of dollars in tourism.

The project needs a state dredging permit before any work can be done. There are concerns that dredging could release hazardous substances. 

Joe is unsure. For now, Ottawa County is in the same boat.

The informational meeting about the dredging proposal will take place after the county commission meeting.

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