River restoration projects revitalize ecologies, economies

Source: Derek Prall, American City and County, June 19, 2013

Urban river restoration – the process of using already existing resources to improve local ecologies and economiesis – is a growing trend in waterfront cities. Cities such as Columbus, Ga., and Phenix City, Ala., have seen benefits from such projects, and Grand Rapids, Mich., recently announced its $2.7 million plan to restore rapids to the Grand River.

The namesake rapids of Grand Rapids gradually disappeared during the mid-19th century, according to a report in the Aspen Daily News, due to to two human means of interference: riverbed quarrying and the cutting of canals to provide power. Similar to problems in Columbus, Ga., and Phenix City, Ala., the Grand River flowing through Grand Rapids provided few economic or recreational benefits to residents.

…Recognized by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Grand Rapids project is one of 11 newly selected additions to the Urban Federal Waters Partnership. Designed to revitalize urban communities, particularly those under economic stress, the partnership includes 13 federal agencies working to support community river restoration efforts with federal funding….

…The economic benefits of the project are expected to take time, according to GBP, but Whitewater Columbus is estimated to create 700 jobs and have an economic impact of $42 million per year….