Metro Council Creates Lower Grand Group

February 20, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — After working on the project for the better part of four years, the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds came into existence when members of the Grand Valley Metro Council recently made LGROW one of the group’s official agencies.

“When this is looked back on, this may be seen as the most significant accomplishment of this group,” said Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County administrator.

The agency will be charged with helping other groups restore the water quality of the Grand River from Portland to Lake Michigan, and then will be responsible for maintaining that quality across the river’s 10-county run in the region.

LGROW will also oversee similar activities for the Lower Grand’s tributaries, like the Rogue, Thornapple and Coldwater rivers, along with Sand, Plaster and Buck creeks.

“We are approaching what I call now ‘step one’ of what will be a thousand steps we will make,” said GVMC Executive Director Don Stypula.

GVMC Planning Director Andy Bowman said the LGROW board will hold its initial meeting in April and is likely to start with 20 members, but could grow to be as large as the council itself with 35 members.

He said there will be three different levels of memberships that will be staggered as far as each level’s length is concerned, and the members’ dues will be used to support the group’s basic activities. Bowman will be LGROW’s only staff person.

“When we establish a new agency we always have some gray areas, and we have to be careful not to strain our resources,” said Michael DeVries, supervisor of Grand Rapids Township.

“We don’t want to create another paid bureaucracy. We really want to keep the dues low,” said Brian Donovan, East Grand Rapids city manager and chairman of the LGROW Steering Committee.

“We’ve got a small budget,” he added.

The Urban Cooperation Board, a coalition of local governmental units, has awarded the agency a multi-year grant to use for operations. More funding will be coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a pair of projects LGROW plans to undertake during the next few years. The state Department of Environmental Quality is administering the EPA grants.

Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute points out there are two varieties of pollutants that threaten watersheds. One is a nonpoint-source pollutant, which occurs when rain, snowmelt and wind push fertilizer, oil, bacteria and other toxins into the water. The other variety is a point-source pollutant, which normally is a direct discharge of toxins into the water.

Most environmentalists believe nonpoint-source pollutants are a great threat to Michigan’s waters.

The Lower Grand River basin covers more than 3,000 square miles from downtown Portland in Ionia County through metro Grand Rapids into Ottawa County and Lake Michigan.

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