Grand River

Environment & Science
5:28 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Check out how the Grand River could look in Grand Rapids with river restoration plan

A rendering of what the river restoration project could look like.
Grand Rapids Whitewater

The preliminary plan to restore the rapids to a two-mile stretch of the Grand River is out. It’s the first real look Grand Rapids has gotten at the proposed project.

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The Environment Report
9:43 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Endangered mussel delaying Grand River whitewater project

A freshly dead snuffbox mussel Dunn's crew found near Riverside Park in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

North America has the most diverse population of freshwater mussels in the world. There are roughly 300 species. But almost 40 have gone extinct in recent history. The presence of one kind of endangered freshwater mussel is delaying projects to restore parts of the Grand River in West Michigan.

To find out more, I meet up with Heidi Dunn and her two-man crew at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids. They’re hunting for a beloved endangered animal - well, an endangered mussel – that Dunn loves.

“They’re not the charismatic megafauna. You know, like eagles and bears and other things like that. These are not warm cuddly fuzzies. They’re biological rocks,” Dunn said.

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Environment & Science
6:30 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

New partnership should give a boost to Grand River rapids restoration project

Kayakers can't go too far in the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids because the dams are dangerous.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

An effort to restore the rapids into the Grand River is getting a boost from a new federal partnership.

The rapids that gave Michigan’s second largest city its name are long gone. Hydraulic dams that used to power the furniture industry are major safety hazards for small boats and kayaks. They also block fish like sturgeon from spawning upstream.

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Environment & Science
11:05 am
Thu April 25, 2013

More than 1,000 still displaced after record setting Grand River flood

Sheila Eddy's home office has been relocated to her hotel room after flooding issues closed Plaza Towers.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Thousands of people affected by a record flood of the Grand River are still coming to terms with the losses. Today the river is expected to finally dip below the flood stage in Grand Rapids.

On-air version of the story here.

Flood comes strong and fast

The flood got real a week ago today. On Thursday, April 18th, more than three inches of rain fell in one day, blowing away the 1939 record of a mere inch and a half.

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The Environment Report
10:36 am
Tue April 23, 2013

Grand Rapids officials looking ahead to next big storm

Anderson Eye Care Facebook.com

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The Grand River hit a record high level in Grand Rapids over the weekend.  Volunteers spent hours filling sandbags to protect homes and city buildings.

City managers are still dealing with the flood waters. But they’re also planning for future storms.

Haris Alibasic directs Grand Rapids’ Office of Energy and Sustainability.

“Given the more intense and more frequent, intense rain events we’re probably going to be experiencing, as climate change is anticipated to really have a serious impact in the Midwest," he says.

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Politics & Government
8:30 am
Tue April 23, 2013

In this morning's news: education work groups, floods receding, trust fund off-limits for dredging

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Mike Flanagan announces public work group on education

Mike Flanagan, the state's superintendent, announced the formation of his own public education work group at Governor Snyder's education summit in East Lansing yesterday. His announcement comes days after a Detroit News report uncovered a secret work group that included top aides to Governor Snyder and private sector representatives. Flanagan says the secret group  should be disbanded.

Flooding in Grand Rapids is receding

After the worst flood on record, Grand Rapids city officials are relieved that the Grand River is finally receding.

"There’s rain in forecast for Tuesday so conditions could change. But the National Weather Service predicts the river will go down as much as a foot per day until it gets back to normal levels on Thursday," Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports.

Schuette says trust fund money off-limits for dredging

"Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says a trust fund for land purchases and improvements can't be used for harbor dredging. Schuette's opinion released Monday found that dredging is upkeep and can't be paid for with Natural Resources Trust Fund money...The Republican's opinion is considered binding unless reversed by the courts," the Associated Press reports.

Developing
5:40 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Grand River reaches peak, but floodwaters remain

The flooded Grand River is high enough a pike can check out the offices of Anderson Eye Care Monday afternoon through the windows.
Anderson Eye Care Facebook.com

Update 5:38 p.m.

Grand Rapids city officials are feeling a “sense of relief” now that the Grand River is receding.

But Mayor George Heartwell hesitated to declare victory over the worst flood on record, just yet.

“We will continue to be vigilant even though the worst is behind us,” Heartwell said.

There’s rain in forecast for Tuesday, so conditions could change. But the National Weather Service predicts the river will go down as much as a foot per day until it gets back to normal levels on Thursday.

That’s good news for riverfront hotels and businesses which are still pumping water out of their basements and parking garages.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the city has spent between $300,000 and $500,000 so far in overtime pay and equipment. But Heartwell says it's paid off.

“Because we were proactive we were able to weather this storm,” Heartwell said. After several days in a row of press conferences to update the media about the flooding, Heartwell hopes Monday’s conference will be the last for a while.

“There’s a sense of relief,” Heartwell said, “I am so incredibly proud of this community and the way it responded to this threat.”

Businesses and residents in communities along the Grand River, from Ionia to Grand Haven, are still drying out basements and assessing the damage.

On Monday crews carefully moved large debris stuck to the side of the Fulton Street bridge. They guide it underneath the bridge and four high voltage transmission lines.

Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern watched a small crane pull a 20-foot-tall dead tree out of the water.

“It’s huge! And then I don’t know how they’re going to – I’m not an engineer but you get to a point that thing is going to be too heavy for that crane to pick up,” Morgenstern said, “It’s amazing what mother nature is sending down the river for us.”

Update 3:33 p.m.

Michigan Radio’s Dustin Dwyer traveled to Lowell, Michigan today to get a first-hand look at the damage there. WOOD-TV reports Lowell was “among the hardest hit West Michigan cities.”

The Grand River peaked at 19.02 feet yesterday at 8:45 a.m. It was just a hair over its previous record of 19.00 feet set back in 1948.

Dwyer spoke with Matthew Silverman of Lowell who owns around 20 acres of land in the area – most of it was underwater.

Silverman said water was flowing into his basement and he lost his boiler and water heater.

“A couple of the houses down the street, they got inundated... A couple of the people didn't even have flood insurance, so they're going to be hurt pretty bad,” said Silverman.

“Nobody was shocked. Everybody was prepared. Everybody was working really hard.... We had a constant flow of people just coming up, 'Do you need help with anything, what do you need?'” he said.

Silverman said the town became a gathering place for onlookers trying to experience the high waters.

“People were launching boats out of my flower bed the other day, with no regard for any private property. They were paddling right over the top of my fence - hitting my fence,” he said.

Silverman said the steady stream of kayakers and the thousands of onlookers on foot and in cars has been a little stressful.

“I mean, it's hard when you're working 24 hours a day, trying to keep your house above water, trying to help your neighbors out and you got people walking through your yard without permission, taking pictures of your house, walking into your backyard,” Silverman said.

12:45 p.m.

The Courtyard Marriott and Plaza Towers Condominiums in downtown Grand Rapids were evacuated this past Saturday morning. The hotel is expected to be shutdown until Wednesday, no word yet on when Plaza Towers residents can return.

Here's what happened, according to the Plaza Towers' website:

The weight of the water from the swollen river found a way to push upward and break the slab floor in the N corner of the hotel basement parking area. Above that area is the retail parking lot. Our structure is not believed to be damaged or impacted in any way.

The water poured into the basement which led to an immediate shutdown of electricity and the evacuation.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports hotels and office buildings in downtown Grand Rapids along the Grand River are still pumping water out of their basements. She says the river is "expected to hit record levels downstream today in cities like Grandville, while upstream in Lowell and Ionia people are assessing the damage."

11:05 a.m.

Small creeks and streams around West and mid-Michigan hit their crests late last week. As they emptied out, they filled the mainstem rivers.

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Politics & Government
9:00 am
Mon April 22, 2013

In this morning's headlines: Flooding, welfare targeted bills, Lansing marathon

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Grand River crests in Grand Rapids, thousands evacuated from flooding

The Grand River has crested in Grand Rapids. As Lindsey Smith reports,

"Grand Rapids remains under a state of emergency because of significant damage to a number of buildings in the downtown area [from the flooding]. It’s estimated around 1,000 residents in mid and west Michigan have been evacuated from their homes."

Bills that target welfare recipients being considered in the state House

"Low-income Michigan families would have to take drug tests and make sure their children don't miss too much school to qualify for some welfare benefits, under legislation in the state House," the Associated Press reports.

Flooding, Boston bombings and freezing temperatures didn't stop Lansing marathon

"Sub-freezing temperatures, tight security and a course rerouted to avoid a flooded section of the Lansing River Trail all failed to stop the Lansing Marathon. Lansing's temperature stood at 28 degrees at the race's 8 a.m. start yesterday as participants honored the victims of last Monday's Boston Marathon bombing," the Associated Press reports.

Flooding
9:30 pm
Sun April 21, 2013

Rivers are rising, Michigan communities brace for flooding

The Grand River at nearly 22 feet on Sunday, April 21, 2013; a record in downtown Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This post was updated as we learned news related to the rising waters in West and mid-Michigan. To see how events unfolded from Friday through Sunday night, scroll down and read up.

To read about current news related to the flooding, see this new post.

Sunday, April 21st, 9:30 p.m.

At nearly 22 feet, Michigan’s longest river is very near where the National Weather Service is predicting it will crest in Grand Rapids. The Grand River’s flood stage there is 18 feet.

City officials were confident the waste water treatment plant (that serves around a dozen other neighboring communities) will make it through the night, thanks in part to a massive sandbag wall lining the perimeter.

Over the weekend the city moved around $3 million dollars in equipment that’s not needed for the emergency to drier locations, just in case.

The flooding means the plant is processing more than triple the usual amount of water. Over the last three days, the city says the plant has treated 150 million gallons of water a day, compared to an average of 42 million gallons a day.

People are still being asked to conserve water; take shorter showers, hold off on washing laundry and dishes.

“We expect to be safe through the night,” the city’s Environmental Services Manager Mike Lunn said in a written statement.

“The combined performance of our flood walls, our pumps, professional staff, and volunteers has been truly amazing. We must, however, continue to be diligent in monitoring the situation,” Lunn said.

The city is no longer calling on people to help fill and move sandbags, for now.

“I can’t possibly imagine what else we could do to react to this situation,” Mayor George Heartwell said, “We realize that things could change dramatically in the next few days with more rain or if issues associated with structures – such as buildings, walls, or bridges - arise.”

The crest will head to Grandville soon, where the city library is now taking on some water in the basement.

In Lowell, upstream from Grand Rapids, the water is already beginning to recede. There’s been very limited access into the city, with a number of bridges closed. But the barricades are predicted to move off Main Street before the Monday morning commute.

Sunday 4:30 p.m.

Electricity is being rerouted in Grand Rapids because of the flooded Grand River.

Officials from Consumers Energy said Sunday there are four high voltage distribution lines that run just under the Fulton Street bridge.

The water is high enough there's a concern that big trees or other debris floating down the river could snag the lines and cause safety concerns so they’ve de-energeized the lines. Electrical services have not been impacted because of the move.

Once the river recedes they’ll reopen the bridge. But officials couldn’t estimate how long that will be.

The Grand River is expected to crest Monday around 2 a.m. at 22.3 feet.

At a press conference Sunday afternoon Mayor George Heartwell thanked the hundreds of volunteers who’ve been filling and stockpiling 6,000 sandbags an hour over the weekend. He called for more volunteers this afternoon and evening.

“Even though we’re the most incredible volunteering city in the world, we need more,” Heartwell said, “Please help us protect our city.”

City-owned buildings have already been lined with the bags. So the 50,000 that remain are primarily for residents and business owners who need then, “or the possibility that the skies open up again this week, we get a ton of rain and we get a resurgence of these levels.”

Rain is in the forecast as early as Tuesday.

Michigan’s second largest city remains under a state of emergency because of significant property damage to a number of buildings in the downtown area.

It’s estimated that around a thousand residents in mid and west Michigan have been evacuated from their homes. Some have already been able to return.

Sunday 11:10 a.m.

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Weather
5:42 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

“This is about the worst” - Grand River close to 100-year flood levels

Mike Seibold watches cars drive through a closed road near his house Thursday afternoon in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

**Find updated flood coverage here.**

The Grand River in Grand Rapids is swollen after record rainfall this month. It’s expected to crest at just under 25 feet on Sunday; just nine inches shy of the 100-year flood level.

Amber Jones and Kelsey Caverly work downtown near the city’s fish ladder. They joined dozens of people who came down on their lunch break Thursday to check it out.

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Politics & Government
7:24 am
Tue April 2, 2013

In this morning's news: Pension tax, E. coli outbreak, Grand River oil spill

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Governor Snyder stands by pension tax

Governor Snyder is standing by a new state tax on retirees' pensions despite calls from both Republicans and Democrats to repeal the legislation.

"A group of five Republican state senators wants to repeal the pension tax, and reinstate some homestead property tax credits. Snyder says the tax on pensions is just a matter of fairness so the tax burden falls equally," Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports.  

E. Coli outbreak reaches Michigan

Two Michigan boys are among those sickened by a nationwide outbreak of E. coli.

"The contamination has been traced to Farm Rich frozen food products including mini pizza slices, mini quesadillas with cheese and chicken, philly cheese steaks with cheese, and mozzarella bites. The recalled products were sold at Kroger, Spartan Stores and other chain supermarkets," according to Steve Carmody.

Oil spill on Grand River linked to malfunctioning equipment

The Board of Water and Light is attributing an oil spill into the Grand River in Lansing this weekend to a malfunctioning piece of equipment at their Eckert Power Plant.

"A utility spokesperson says fewer than 300 gallons of oil seeped into the Grand River. Oil-collecting booms have been deployed to contain the spill," reports Steve Carmody.