$230M grant would help prevent Grand River flooding

The Grand River in April 2013 (File Photo)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County and West Michigan cities are asking for $230 million from the federal government to prepare for and withstand natural disasters like the Grand River’s historic flooding in 2013.

The preparation plan is called “The Grand Strategy.”  According to a press release from Kent County, the plan includes “approximately two dozen initiatives” for Kent County and the cities of Grands Rapids and Wyoming.

The 89-page plan spends a lot of time focusing on 2013’s flooding, how it happened, what damage it did and how much it cost to fix.

>>Online: The Grand Strategy Plan (PDF)

The plan states that nearly 300 homes were damaged or destroyed by the flooding and that “in the Midwest, climate change is challenging stormwater management systems to embrace resiliency.”

“I believe it’s going to happen again. We’re going to see another one of these floods that will tip the scale if we’re not ready for it,” Wayman Britt, assistant Kent County administrator, explained. “We know that it takes a lot more to replace and rebuild than it does to prepare.”

The objectives of the project include things like:

  • Transforming the urban waterway and waterfront in Downtown Grand Rapids.
  • Converting multiple urban core riverfront opportunity sites from a gray-to-green flood protection system that expands public parks, trails and recreation opportunities.
  • Remove five obsolete dams and restore the rapids in the Grand River in Downtown GR.
  • Ensuring that Grand Rapids’ urban core secures “sound reach” flood protection designation by the Federal Emergency Management Association.
  • Enhance flood retention on more than 1,500 acres of land.
  • Build 160 miles of green streets.
  • Restore 92 acres of wetlands.
  • Rehabilitate 25 miles of streams and drains.

Though all of the money awarded by the grant would go to West Michigan, the entire state of Michigan is applying for the grant.

The Grand Strategy plan is one of 40 applicants for $1 billion that the federal government set aside to help communities better prepare for natural disasters.

Officials point out that if the Grand Strategy plan is selected, it would mean less local money tied up in the project.

“It’s a win-win for our community because we don’t have to put more into the till to take care of what we need we need to do to make our community more resilient, more vibrant and more sustainable,” Britt said.

“If we can, in essence, redevelop the river from upstream in Lowell, Ada all the way down through Millennium Park in Grandville and prevent damage, that’s damage that taxpayers don’t have to pay to fix in the future,” Linda Howell , assistant corporate counsel for Kent County, said. “That’s a redevelopment that we can all enjoy as soon as it’s done.”

The grant applications are due Tuesday, Oct. 27 and should be awarded in early 2016.

Howell said that if the West Michigan project is selected, the work would need to be completed within five or six years.

Britt told 24 Hour News 8 that while he’s cautiously optimistic about getting the grant, even if the area doesn’t receive the funding, the plan offers a good road map for what will need to be done in the future.

“We’re not waiting for it to happen, we’re coming together as a community to make sure that we are in a position to take care of the lives and the businesses and all the things that make the community great,” Britt said.

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