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Downtown dam removal prompts pushback from fishermen

File photo.

File photo.

File photo.

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The Grand River recently became the center of a new restoration plan, the Grand Rapids Whitewater Project, which aims to remove several of the dams that have been constructed over the years, which have diverted the course of the original rapid pattern.

By taking out the dams, the natural rapids would return. This project has garnered support from the White House, and is estimated to cost $27 million; private, state and federal funding are being pursued in order to cover these costs.

Regardless of the price tag, city leaders feel it is the best course of action; assistant planning director Jay Steffen told that he feels that they would be “looking at a better river in the end.”

But not all are in support of this new initiative. The Sixth Street dam, one of the dams selected for removal, is a favorite fishing spot for some local fishermen.

The spot can be a bit crowded, and if a lot of anglers are down at the same time, catching fish might prove to be a bit harder than expected. Matt Wakoski tells that, “one guy might lose a fish because he gets snagged up on another guy’s line, but it’s part of being down here.” Regardless of the challenges presented by fishing in the river, anglers still find it enjoyable to be downtown fishing.

“It’s a respect game, but it’s fun,” says Josh Price to “You’re right in the middle of downtown, the weather couldn’t be better and I enjoy the scenery.”In order to save their fishing hole, a group of anglers have decided to take matters into their own hands and come up with a suggestion of their own. Naming their plan Grand River Future Vision, this group has created a blueprint of their own dreams for the riverbed, complete with a gated spillway for kayakers and a lamprey barrier.

The fishermen’s plan doesn’t forget about the desire to restore the original patterns of the rapids. Their plan includes putting in shoals and rocks to help create the natural flow the river once had.

In one attempt to raise awareness for their defense, an unknown fisherman went so far as to write out “Save our Dam” in the green moss that coats the side of the dam.

The leaders of the Grand Rapids Whitewater Project are aware of the various parties of opposition. They are attempting to engage the public and calm any fears the public has about the changing environment of the river.

But amidst all the hubbub surrounding the project, Steffen replies, “the goal in the end is to enhance the river by putting the boulders back in and providing a better sturgeon habitat.”

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