Grand Rapids' mayor gets a frequent question: "Where's the rapids?" Soon, he may be able to give a less disappointing answer. There haven't been rapids in the Michigan city for a century, since the riverbed was smoothed to make way for floating timber. But officials, engineers, and white-water fans are looking to change that, the Wall Street Journal reports. Plans backed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor George Heartwell call for the removal or alteration of dams in the Grand River. Boulders up to 10 feet wide would be placed in the channel, bringing back the whitewater.
The project also has federal support: Grand Rapids is one of 11 cities selected by the EPA for the Urban Rivers Restoration Initiative. Businesses are "seeing that rivers can be economic drivers for renewal," says an engineer involved; indeed, private firms have helped fund the project so far. But the total cost could be around $27.5 million, and some fear the rapids could boost flooding risk. Even without the rapids, the Grand River hit record levels in April. There are also concerns about allowing invasive fish species to enter the river, not to mention rowers who don't want to lose a popular spot. "I think there is going to have to be some sort of compromise and maybe something less than full rapids," says a fisheries official. (Read more Grand Rapids stories.)