Grand Rapids

Environment & Science
11:40 am
Mon April 22, 2013

The 7 rivers in Michigan flooding right now

Map showing stream gauges around Michigan. Purple indicates "major flooding," red "moderate flooding," orange "minor flooding," yellow "near flood stage." If it's green, you're good.
NWS

We're hearing a lot of news about flooding rivers around the state, but which rivers are above flood stage right now?

The National Weather Service has a handy map that displays stream gauges from the USGS (United States Geological Survey).

Here's what it shows now:

Rivers experiencing major to moderate flooding:

  • Grand River at several locations
  • Saginaw River at Saginaw

Rivers experiencing minor flooding:

  • Muskegon River
  • Maple River
  • Grand River
  • Thornapple River
  • Red Cedar River
  • St. Joseph River

These stream gauges represent your tax dollars at work, and the USGS wants you to know that some of these gauges around the country will be idled because your tax dollars will no longer be at work.

So far, only one gauge in the western UP is at risk because of the budget cuts.

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.

Read more
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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Business
11:44 am
Thu April 18, 2013

DeVos investment fund puts $2.3 million into more than 100 ideas

Rick DeVos announced Start Garden in April 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A venture capital fund backed by the DeVos family has invested $2.3 million dollars in start-up companies in the past year. The money went to 106 different ideas or projects.

The fund is called Start Garden. It was created nearly a year ago by Amway co-founder Richard DeVos’ grandson Rick DeVos, who’s also an entrepreneur (and founder of ArtPrize). He gave an update on the fund this morning.

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Law
6:08 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Legal battle over decriminalizing marijuana in Grand Rapids gets even more complicated

DecriminalizeGR attorney Jack Hoffman explains to reporters Monday morning why he's unhappy with the city's legal position.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids and a group behind the decriminalization of marijuana there are at odds over how to enforce the charter amendment voters passed in November.

In a recent court filing, the city argues police should have discretion, if not the duty, to turn over marijuana charges to the state. That way, offenders would be charged with a crime, not a civil infraction.

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Politics & Government
2:43 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Spike in violent crime near Grand Rapids prompts state police helicopter patrols

One of two Michigan State Police helicopters that will begin patrols in west Michigan.
michigan.gov/msp

This month Michigan State Police helicopters began what will be regular patrols of the Grand Rapids area.

Lieutenant Chris McIntire commands the Rockford Post. He says the patrols come in response to a spike in murders and other violent crime in the past few months.

“Not just in Grand Rapids but all of western Michigan, the State Police has found it's probably a benefit to bring some of those resources over here, help to curb some of that crime,” McIntire said.

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Arts & Culture
3:37 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

ArtPod is supersized for Spring

You know Spring is here when Detroiters rally for 300 years of Marche du Nain Rouge.
Michigan Radio Michigan Radio

This week, ArtPod is inspired by the massive chocolate Easter bunnies we’ve been inhaling for days now.

So to welcome Spring (hey, it’s 50 degrees!) we’re doing a bigger edition of ArtPod, squeezing in two very different  Michigan’s artists and culture-makers.

First, we start off with a full-cast radio performance of the play “RUST.”

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Economy
4:59 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Grand Rapids metro area now home to more than one million people

A chart of Michigan metro areas in 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

For the first time the Grand Rapids region now has more than a million people.

The boost in the 2012 estimate comes in part because of changes to the way the US Census is calculates the population there. The Grand Rapids metro area now includes Ottawa County because more than a quarter of the people who live there commute to work in Grand Rapids.

Tim Mroz is with the economic development group The Right Place. He says the million mark is significant in attracting big companies to the region.

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Politics & Government
11:11 am
Thu March 14, 2013

'It's not just Detroit,' hundreds of Michigan cities face huge unfunded liabilities

State capitol building, Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Hundreds of Michigan cities are not saving enough to cover their future retiree health care costs.

A new report says more than 300 Michigan municipalities have in excess of $13 billion in unfunded liabilities for health care costs of retired public employees.

Michigan State University researchers found only half of the municipalities are prefunding retiree health care. The rest are setting aside no money despite longer lifespans and rapidly rising health costs.

While the collective bill of funding those benefits is $12.7 billion, the bulk of it, almost $11 billion, is attributable to local governments in a 10-county region of Southeast Michigan including Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. The city of Detroit alone will owe $5 billion in retiree health care costs.

But MSU professor Eric Scorsone says cities like Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Saginaw also face difficult choices.

“That’s already happening today….these cities…are paying millions of dollars in retiree premiums so it’s already having an effect and it will have an even bigger effect in the future,” says Scorsone.

Scorsone says the new national health care law may help some.   But tax increases, budget cuts or broken promises to retirees are inevitable, unless the state takes action.

Politics & Government
5:05 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Group seeks to interrupt the outbreak of violence in Grand Rapids

Cure Violence sees violence as an infection
user: The Ohio State University Flickr

In 2012, Grand Rapids saw an outburst of violent crime, including nine homicides in which all of the victims died from gunshot wounds.

This week, two community groups called Urban League and Network 180 are hosting a series of meetings to inform the public about possible solutions and to begin a discussion about the future of violence in the Grand Rapids community.

Raynard Ross is a resident of Grand Rapids and works with Upward Bound at Grand Rapids Community College. Ross also serves on a panel to address the issue of violence within the Grand Rapids community.

The interrupters

According to Ross, street violence has reached a level of “borderline madness.”

“There’s a lot of retaliatory violence,” Ross said. “[Grand Rapids] is relatively small, so the degree of separation with those involved is one or two degrees tops. We’ve found that a lot of this violence is occurring based on misunderstandings and things begin to snowball and escalate and next thing you know we have something that could have been squashed by some early interrupting.”

That’s where someone like Cobe Williams comes in.

Read more
Politics & Culture
4:49 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Stateside for Tuesday, February 26th, 2012

On today's show, troubling headlines have been coming out of Grand Rapids in recent  months a burst of violent crime. Today we take a look at what can be done to curb the violence.

And we turn an eye to medical care: just how can we fix inequality in access to health care in Michigan.

But to start things off... he has been an assistant Wayne County prosecutor, the deputy Wayne County executive under Edward McNamara. He was the CEO of the Detroit Medical Center.Today, Mike Duggan’s is making it official, he wants to be Detroit’s next mayor.

To take a closer look at the Duggan candidacy, we spoke with Rocelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press.

Law
3:39 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Despite judge’s approval, Grand Rapids waits to decriminalize marijuana

Protestors circled Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth's office in December, demanding respect for 'proposal 2'.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids is waiting before it implements a charter amendment that decriminalizes marijuana possession. Voters passed the initiative last November.

But the Kent County prosecutor is suing the city to prevent it from taking effect. The prosecutor argues it’s against state and federal laws for Grand Rapids police officers to issue only a civil infraction for marijuana possession. It would be sort of like a parking ticket. Ann Arbor has had similar rules for decades.

The prosecutor tried to get a restraining order to stop the city’s administration from implementing the charter, while the judge heard the merits of the case.

But Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan said it was okay for the city to make the change before he decides the case. Sullivan declined the restraining order because he said the prosecutor couldn’t prove it would cause any immediate harm.

Mayor George Heartwell, one of a few elected city leaders who supported the charter change, said he was “pleased” by that ruling. In late January, Heartwell said the city would implement the change within about a month.

But now, Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the city will wait for a decision on the actual merits of the case.

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Arts & Culture
3:29 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

Stateside: Beer, microbreweries and brew pubs in Michigan

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

The 8th Winter Beer Fest is happening in Grand Rapids this weekend.

Tickets sold out in only about 13 hours. That  got us wondering about the craft beer industry in Michigan.

After some research, we discovered that Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in number of breweries, microbreweries and brew pubs.

We had President and CEO of Founders Brewing Company, Mike Stevens join us and speak on the subject of beer.

Offbeat
10:51 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Downtown Grand Rapids to see an increase in bike racks

Folks in Grand Rapids could find it easier to ride their bikes if they plan to be downtown this summer.

Eric Pratt is with the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority. He says a proposal to install more than 200 off-street bicycle racks and six on-street racks is being finalized for the upcoming season.

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The Environment Report
11:21 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Grand Rapids officials making progress on 2020 renewables goal

The solar panels on top of Grand Rapids' Water Services Administration building.
Photo by Haris Alibasic City of Grand Rapids

You can listen to today's Environment Report story or read the story below.

The mayor of Grand Rapids wants all of the electricity for the city's operations to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

I recently met up with Grand Rapids Fire Captain Tony Hendges to check in on the city's progress.

He led the way down a dark stairwell to the basement of the Leonard Street Fire Station. There’s some exercise equipment on one side of the room. On the other side are a bunch of large white metal boxes and lots of new pipes coming out of them: a geothermal system.

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Education
12:50 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Grand Rapids schools sends out first round of pink slips in “transformation plan”

The Grand Rapids school board voted to send out the notices Monday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

About 200 administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools are getting notice that they could potentially be laid off this summer. The school board voted Monday night to send out the notices, as part of a “transformation plan” it adopted in December.

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Business
3:36 am
Tue February 5, 2013

Many Michigan commuters spend a lot of time sitting in traffic

A new report shows commuters are spending a lot of time behind the wheel in two Michigan cities.

The Texas A & M Transportation Institute releases an annual report on traffic congestion around the country. Many Detroit commuters will probably agree with the findings in this year’s Urban Mobility reports.   

Report co-author Bill Eisele says Motown motorists spend a lot of time each year not moving.

“Those commuting in Detroit are losing 40 hours,” says Eisele, “[They] are losing essentially a whole…week just stuck in traffic.”

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Economy
4:26 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Southwest Airlines coming to Grand Rapids this summer

Beginning in August, Southwest Airlines will service the airport in Grand Rapids.
Gordon Werner Creative Commons

People flying out of the airport in Grand Rapids will soon have more options and cheaper flights.

On Monday Southwest Airlines, the “world’s largest low-fare air service provider,” announced flights out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport will begin in August.

Southwest Airlines will double the current flight schedule run by AirTran Airways. Southwest acquired AirTran in 2011. It will also provide bigger airplanes, adding up to an 83 percent increase in “seat count” over AirTran’s  daily average.

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Politics & Government
4:37 pm
Sat January 26, 2013

Children again the focus of Grand Rapids state of the city speech

Mayor George Heartwell greets some of the hundreds of guests at his 10th annual state of the city address Saturday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The mayor of Grand Rapids called the state’s second-largest city the “pride of Michigan” in his tenth state of the city address Saturday morning.

Mayor George Heartwell touted the city’s record of sustainability, natural resources, and diversity. His list of awards and recognitions is several minutes long.

“And of course, who could forget Beer City USA?” Heartwell said with a big belly laugh.

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Law
5:05 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

With restraining order lifted, Grand Rapids can decriminalize marijuana… for now

Protestors circle the Kent County Prosecutor's office building in December.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids will work to put a new charter amendment in place that decriminalizes marijuana, now that a Kent County judge today lifted a temporary restraining order preventing implementation.

City residents voted overwhelmingly for the amendment in November. Under the charter amendment people who get busted with a little pot in Grand Rapids would just pay a fine.

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