Grand Valley Metropolitan Council Creates New, Regional Watershed Organization to Serve West Michigan

The Metro Council's vote to adopt the Articles of Organization and Bylaws for LGROW caps a four year effort to establish a multidisciplinary watershed organization to oversee restoration, protection and enhancement activities in the Lower Grand River drainage basin that encompasses more then 3,000 square miles starting at the confluence of the Grand and Looking Glass Rivers in downtown Portland in Ionia County through Metro Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan. The watershed covers ten counties and includes the Thornapple River, Flat River, and Rogue River Watersheds, which flow into the Grand River and discharge to Lake Michigan at Grand Haven.

LGROW Map

The new Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds will work with indivicuals and groups to restore and enhance water quality in the 3,020 square mile Lower Grand River Watershed that stretches from the confluence of the Grand and Looking Glass Rivers in downtown Portland in Ionia County through Metro Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan at Grand Haven.

Under the Articles and Bylaws approved by Metro Council, LGROW will serve as an umbrella organization for sub-watershed groups throughout the region and coordinate activities designed to enhance water quality in the Lower Grand River and its tributaries like the Rogue, Thornapple and Coldwater Rivers in addition to Sand, Plaster and Buck Creeks. Initial funding for LGROW operations will come from a generous, multi-year grant from the Urban Cooperation Board. Additional funding for specific projects over the next two years will come from a pair of U.S. EPA Section 319 grants administered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that were accepted by the Metro Council on behalf of LGROW on October 8, 2007.

“Creation of the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds is a major achievement for the Metro Council and marks a historic moment for West Michigan,” according to Metro Council Chair and Grandville Mayor James Buck. On behalf of the 35 counties and home towns that are  part of the Metro Council family of communities, I want to congratulate the members of the LGROW Steering Committee who spent hundreds of hours in collaborative discussions to develop the framework and operational rules for this new watershed organization.”

Under the new LGROW Articles and Bylaws, day to day operations of LGROW, as an Agency of Metro Council, will be governed by a Board of Directors comprised of the Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer, together with one representatives of each of the counties, municipalities and organizations that choose to participate as full members of LGROW. Like other GVMC agencies with dedicated boards, LGROW will operate under the direction of, and be governed by, the policies and procedures of Metro Council.

GVMC Planning Director Andy Bowman, who has overseen the Lower Grand River Watershed project since its inception, will continue to manage the day-to-day operations of LGROW and work with the LGROW Board of Directors to identify and secure project funding and implement tasks and projects designed to enhance water quality in the Lower Grand River.

LGROW Chair, Brian Donovan

East Grand Rapids City Manager Brian Donovan, chair of the LGROW Steering Committee, tells the Metro Council that creation of LGROW marks a historic turning point for environmental stewardship in West Michigan. "Through partnerships with colleges and universities, business and philanthropic organizations and dedicated individuals, we will build the capacity of LGROW to serve the desire of everyone in West Michigan to protect and enhance water quality," he told his fellow Metro Council Board members prior to their unanimous vote to create the LGROW.

“Today marks day-one of a regional environmental protection initiative that will involve generations of people here in West Michigan,” according to East Grand Rapids City Manager Brian Donovan, chair of the LGROW Steering Committee. “Through partnerships with colleges and universities, business and philanthropic organizations and dedicated individuals, we will build the capacity of LGROW to serve the desire of everyone in West Michigan to protect and enhance water quality.”

Steering Committee members and GVMC staff worked hundreds of hours since late 2003 to examine different organizational structures and finalize the operational model for LGROW. Individuals who participated in the collaborative discussions that lead up to the creation of the LGROW as members of the Lower Grand River Watershed Steering Committee include:

  • Brain Donovan, City Manager, East Grand Rapids – LGROW Chair
  • Paul Geerlings, Drain Commissioner, Ottawa County – LGROW vice Chair
  • Kristine Huizen, Frey Foundation
  • Scott Connors, City Engineer, City of Walker
  • Corky Overmyer, Director of Sustainability Initiatives, City of Grand Rapids
  • Rachel Hood, Executive Director, West Michigan Environmental Action Council
  • Sean Wessell, West Michigan Environmental Action Council
  • Jim Oosting, Coldwater River Watershed Council
  • James Smalligan, Principal, Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber, Inc. engineers
  • Wendy Ogilvie , Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber, Inc. engineers
  • Janice Tompkins, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
  • John Koches, GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute

“After participating in the discussions of the LGROW Steering Committee over the past four years and witnessing the passion that folks all across this region have for our Grand River water resources, I believe the LGROW is a superb fit for Metro Council,” said GVMC Executive  Director Donald Stypula. “Working in a collaborative fashion, the Steering Committee members have shown all of us that even in the most challenging economic environment our state has ever faced, individuals, businesses and groups have a keen interest in environmental and natural resources stewardship, and they are willing to work in a cooperative fashion to preserve and protect our water resources for generations to come.”

The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council (GVMC) is a regional organization dedicated to promoting cooperation and coordination among local governments in the metropolitan Grand Rapids area. Created in 1990, its membership now includes 35 local governments, representing more than 700,000 people.