VIDEO: The Grand Strategy in Michigan

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Grand Rapids, Michigan, is implementing several strategies in preparation for the anticipated flooding of the Grand River

By Mary Velan

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is implementing several strategies in preparation for the anticipated flooding of the Grand River. The city has already constructed rain gardens along streets and plans to take out flood walls and replace them with vegetated terraces to better soak up rain water and stormwater runoff. Grand Rapids is also considering the acquisition of riverfront property to further deploy flood management tools and protect community infrastructure.

In most recent news, the city has applied for a $200 million federal grant to help pay for the above mentioned projects and others to come in the future – such as removing dams from nearby bodies of water. Grand Rapids and several other municipalities in Kent County have created a Grand Strategy to demonstrate the value of their preparedness initiatives and obtain a portion of the $1 billion in National Disaster Resilience Competition grant funding. The overall goal of the collaborative campaign is to fund new and existing projects designed to reduce flood risk along the river and improve the quality of life in West Michigan.

The team leading “The Grand Strategy” grant proposal have identified about $444 million in strong projects – existing projects that had been previously discussed and evaluated but were outside the current financial ability of the various jurisdictions to complete alone. With community partners identifying close to $200 million in support, these projects to protect the communities may now be fiscally viable in today’s environment of tight budgets. Our proposal asks HUD for close to $244 million.
“Implementing the Grand Strategy to restore the Grand River and build up our region’s resilience to extreme flooding will not only help stave off expensive and debilitating disaster,” said Andy Guy, Chief Outcomes Officer at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. “The initiative will significantly improve West Michigan’s quality of life, leverage substantial private investment in community building, and catalyze the region’s next generation of growth and success. For these reasons the National Disaster Resilience Competition presents a timely and potentially game-changing opportunity for our region.”
Together, the numerous participating municipalities have developed a Three Fold Strategy that includes:
  • Establishing an equitable and inclusive river corridor that attracts, welcomes and serves a diversity of people;
  • Restoring and repurposing land to achieve economic, environmental and social resiliency;
  • Protecting critical infrastructure to safeguard public health and to sustain the economy.
The collaborative strategy includes a portfolio of 65 coordinated countywide projects and initiatives that would provide:
  • Resilient Flood Protection along Grand River from Lowell to Grandville;
  • Economic opportunities;
  • Enhanced access and recreational opportunities;
  • Improved habitat, connectivity and water quality.
Some projects include improvements to lift stations, better protection of clean water and waste water facilities, drain improvements, and improved river response for rescues or evacuations. “The Grand Strategy” team sent our regional strategy to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation this week and will work with MEDC on finalizing a HUD submittal in October. The decision on funding should occur in the first quarter of 2016.

National Disaster Resilience Competition
On June 22, 2015, HUD Secretary Julián Castro invited 40 states and communities to compete in the second and final phase of the National Disaster Resilience Competition. These finalists — representing areas that experienced a Presidentially-declared major disaster in 2011, 2012, and 2013 — will compete for almost $1 billion in funding for disaster recovery and long-term community resilience. View the full list of finalists.Over the next few months, finalists will further develop their disaster resilience strategies and propose specific projects. From a total pool of nearly $1 billion, each of these 40 states and communities will be able to request up to $500 million for cutting-edge projects that address unmet needs from past disasters while addressing the vulnerabilities that could put Americans in harm’s way during future disasters. Final submissions are due October 27, 2015. All successful applicants will be required to tie their proposals back to the eligible disaster from which they are recovering. HUD will announce the winners of Phase 2 in early 2016. HUD will ensure that geographic diversity is a consideration in the selection of participating communities.

View the National Disaster Resilience Competition Phase 2 Fact Sheet.

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