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Grand River restoration project leaders warn of sea lamprey threat

It is a $44 million restoration project.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's being called one of the most important projects in all of West Michigan.

On Monday night, an open house was held to discuss the Grand River restoration project. Restoring the rapids is a major initiative with $44 million worth of funding behind it. But removing the 6th Street dam could cause more problems than solutions.

"If the dam failed us, the 6th Street dam and the lamprey were to move upstream, there would be huge consequences to the environment," said Charlie Uhlarik a project leader.

Sea lamprey are an invasive species found in the Grand River but currently blocked by the 6th Street dam.

"Lamprey are a predatory fish. They have a top down effect and prey directly on fish. They attach to the fish with a mouth filled with sharp teeth and file a hole through and feed directly on the fish's blood and body fluids," said Uhlarik.

If the dam is removed a hydraulic barrier could be used to block the spread of lampreys. Another concern is the potential for flooding but city leaders say they are confident that won't be a problem.

"One of the objectives that we stated from the beginning is that the project would not make flooding any worse, and that's for everybody. That's for downtown and surrounding areas," said Deputy City Manager Eric Delonge.

Permits need to be secured before the project can move forward. Work is scheduled to start next year but it could be pushed to 2021.

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