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September 15th 2014

Putting the Rapids Back in Grand Rapids

As HOW Conference attendees walked through downtown Grand Rapids last week, a question might have played on their minds: where are all the rapids?

“When I first moved here from New Mexico,” remembers Chris Muller of Grand Rapids Whitewater, “I kept thinking: ‘The name doesn’t really seem to fit. Why do we call it Grand Rapids if there are none?’”

Running through the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the Grand River did once exhibit impressive whitewater conditions that gave the city its name. As a community and industry developed around the river, however, they altered the river to suit their needs. Water levels were raised and lowered with dams, and the rocks lining the riverbed were removed. The iconic rapids disappeared, and the river has never been the same.

Several Grand Rapids residents have come together under a shared vision of returning rapids to the Grand River and reconnecting residents to the river and their shared history. Proponents acknowledge that this task is complicated and will take time, but will ultimately lead to numerous benefits for the city, including increased economic development, expanded recreational opportunities, and improved fish and wildlife habitat. As Muller explains: “We have a river; why can’t it be an awesome river?” More >

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September 10th 2014

Michigan Community Tackles Stormwater Issues in Their Watershed

The Plaster Creek watershed contains a variety of interests and communities reliant on the creek. Farms, industry, and higher-income communities dominate the upper reaches of the watershed, while downstream neighborhoods tend to be lower-income, minority communities. Stormwater carries excessive animal waste, sewage contamination, fertilizer, sediments, and other pollutants into the river, leading to severe bacterial contamination. This has a disproportionate impact on the low-income minority communities living downstream. Thanks to a program run through Calvin College, however, this diverse community is coming together to address these stormwater and environmental justice issues through green infrastructure restoration, scientific and social research, and education. Read more here.

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September 9th 2014

Great Lakes Activists Gather in Grand Rapids, Mich., to Celebrate 10 Years of Restoration Success

Conference to pay tribute to businessman, philanthropist and Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition founder Peter Wege

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (Sept. 9, 2014) – With federal Great Lakes restoration efforts paying off in communities across the region, more than 350 Great Lakes advocates are gathering today in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the 10th annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference, which runs through Thursday.

Follow the proceedings, including daily coverage by Detroit Public Television at or

“We’re excited to be in Grand Rapids, which hosted the first Great Lakes restoration conference 10 years ago,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We’re thrilled at the progress we’ve seen in those years, and are well aware that we’ve got more work to do. The good news is that federal restoration efforts are helping the environment and economy in Grand Rapids and communities around the region. Our message is simple: ‘Let’s keep Great Lakes restoration efforts on track’.”

Honoring Peter Wege

The conference will pay special tribute to Peter Wege, the Grand Rapids businessman, philanthropist and Great Lakes advocate, who founded the Coalition 10 years ago. Mr. Wege passed away earlier this year and the conference features a tribute lunch today to honor his leadership and support over his lifetime.

“Peter Wege was a wonderful man whose vision, passion, commitment and generosity was instrumental in advancing Great Lakes restoration efforts,” said Ambs. “We look forward to honoring and celebrating his life and carrying on the work to restore the health of the Lakes. Millions of people depend on these magnificent Lakes for their drinking water, jobs, and quality of life.” More >

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September 5th 2014

Grand Rapids Area Restoration Success Stories Release Prior to 10th Annual Restoration Conference

One of the brownfield sites in May 2013, just as the poplars are being put in the ground. Photo courtesy of the Delta Institute.

One of the brownfield sites in May 2013, just as the poplars are being put in the ground. Photo courtesy of the Delta Institute.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition’s 10th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference is happening next week—September 9-11—in Grand Rapids, Mich. The conference is a place for more than 300 Great Lakes advocates and stakeholders, including representatives of business, industry, academia and city, state and federal agencies to gather to celebrate the accomplishments of and discuss the threats facing the Great Lakes. Prior to the conference, we have gathered success stories from the greater Grand Rapids area that showcase the restoration work being done throughout the region. You can view a slideshow of all restoration success stories out of Michigan here.

More >

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September 5th 2014

Weekly News Roundup: Aquatic Invasives, Lake Sturgeon, and More

New York State recently passed a law requiring all boats to be washed before entering New York waterways, reports the Star Gazette. The measure is intended to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species that can attach onto boats, such as hydrilla.

The Associated Press reports that Michigan’s Thunder Bay National Marine Santuary has received federal approval to expand from 450 square miles to 4,300 square miles. Located in Lake Huron, Thunder Bay is the nation’s only freshwater sanctuary.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is releasing almost three dozen juvenile lake sturgeon into the Kalamazoo River, reports MLive. The release will take place this Saturday, and will be open to the public.

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will provide another $12 million for states and federal regulators battling harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. The money will contribute to both monitoring for water quality and assisting farmers to alter some of their practices contributing to the blooms.

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  • 2014 Great Lakes Restoration Conference

    Registration for the 10th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference is now available! To register, view the agenda, see what field trips are being offered, and to find out more about becoming a conference sponsor or exhibitor, please visit the main conference page.

  • Check out the Latest Update from the Field

    Read our latest field update from Michigan. Ducks Unlimited shares the results of their restoration tour with Congressman Dan Benishek. Learn more.