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The river we know As expedition enters Lower Grand, the West Michigan landscape comes into view, and threats to health of the water become more complicated BY HOWARD MEYERSON PRESS OUTDOORS EDITOR

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rom Lyons to Grand Haven, with the exception of the Fourth Street dam in Grand Rapids, the lower Grand River is open for passage. It was once the unobstructed province of Indians and French fur traders and, later, steamships. Today, the watery thoroughfare meanders through a changed landscape. The DISCOVERING OUR GRAND RIVER savannas and forests that once lined its banks have been replaced by modern features — a checkerboard of commerce, agriculture, homes, parks and playgrounds. Over the next six days, the Grand River Expedition members will see much of it up close: its beauty, its bounty and its unsightliness.

THE GRAND TOUR

“I don’t go downriver from where I live because the entire energy of the water changes,” said Bruce Ling, of Comstock Park. He has lived along the river for years. Ling prefers to fish upstream where, he says, the waters are cleaner. His favorites are catf ish, smallmouth bass, walleye, Bruce Ling northern pike. “I know that part of the river like the back of my hand,” said Ling, a professional fiddler and licensed electrician. “There’s a great blue heron rookery we like to check on and a bunch of great swimming holes. “But downstream there is no vibrancy. The river is flat. There are a lot of (factories) in Comstock Park and lots of impervious surfaces where the oil and anything on them washes into the river.” Scientists and others who study the river say the Grand is a mixed bag of good and bad. Beautiful naturally, scenic in many places, but communities along its length struggle with the byproducts of development. Andy Bowman, planning director for the Grand Valley Metro Council and staff coordinator for the Lower Grand Organization of Watersheds program, said the lower river is better than it was. Progress has been made controlling pollution, but sediPRESS PHOTO/REX LARSEN mentation and E. coli remain serious problems. Looking upstream: Many bridges cross the Grand in the urban landscape of downtown Grand Rapids. Visible The E. coli comes from farm runoff here, from top: Ann Street, railroad bridge, Leonard Street, Sixth Street, eastbound and westbound I-196, Bridge Street, the Gillette pedestrian bridge, Pearl Street, Blue Bridge (pedestrian), Fulton Street, U.S. 131.

Portages tough until firefighters come to rescue

Back on the water: Participants in the Grand River Expedition 2010 pass under a railroad trestle in downtown Portland on Tuesday as they set off in the morning, headed 18 miles downstream to Lyons.

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5-year-old died of traumatic brain injury, police say BY JOHN TUNISON AND NATE REENS THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

GRAND RAPIDS — Hank Schriever disagreed with authorities when they put his 5-year-old twin granddaughters in foster care in February, but assumed they would be safe. He was distraught to learn police think a foster care mother is responsible for causing the death of one of the girls, Emily Marie Meno. “My feeling is this never should have Emily Marie happened,” the Cedar Springs man said. Meno “That’s why I’m so cotmad about CONNECT ton-pickin’ the whole system.” Emily died Saturday  Latest on at Spectrum Health possible arraignment at Butterworth hospital mlive.com/gr from a traumatic brain injury that happened late Thursday or early Friday. Police did not release the foster mother’s name. “She had blood on the brain,” Schriever said of his granddaughter. “The family went to the hospital late at night, and they stayed there overnight and all through the next day.” The death is the second blow to the family in two years. Meno’s halfsister, 10-year-old April Kirtley, was SEE DEATH, A2

‘No’ votes spark controversy for Amash In first term, he was sole lawmaker opposing 59 bills BY JIM HARGER THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

near the Grand and didn’t know much about it until we read the stories in The Grand Rapids Press,” Joe Peckins said. “Those stories made me want to get involved.” Afternoon: The first two portages of the day were meat-grinders, both nearly 100 yards, with the water between them basically lakes, making SEE PORTAGES, A6

SEE AMASH, A2

THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

Day 6: Portland to Lyons. 17 miles. 8 hours. It was one dam day — actually four of them that we had to get around. Morning: The paddle looked easy as we left Portland, but the river soon turned sluggish and wide, warning us a portage was near. The talk was of Verlon Kruger, the late legendary paddler, for whom a ceremony was held the previous night at his newly unveiled statue in Portland. His ghost has hovered over the trip, with people talking about him in hushed tones. But not everyone is a top paddler. Joe and Marilyn Peckins, of Lyons, joined in, even though he can’t swim and doesn’t like being on the water. “My wife and I lived our entire lives

Foster mom accused in girl’s death

GRAND RAPIDS — State Rep. Justin Amash says he’s being “principled, consistent and conservative” when he votes “no” on bills with which he disagrees or has not read. The Cascade Township Republican, now seeking the 3rd District Congressional seat, has been the only “no” vote on 59 bills in his first term in the 110-member Michigan House, more than any other state lawmaker. His opponents in Justin the GOP primary say Amash, 30, is an ideoAmash logue and libertarian whose aversion to compromise will hurt the 3rd District if voters send him to Washington, D.C. They point to Amash’s “no” votes on bills that toughened penalties for

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BY JEFF COUNTS

PRESS PHOTO/REX LARSEN

©2010, The Grand Rapids Press

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WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2010

SEE LOWER, A6

THE FALL CONTINUES

AROUND THE BEND: Quiet village of Saranac proud of its history, A7 NEXT LEG: Lyons to Saranac. Launching around 7:30 a.m. from Hazel Devore Park, arriving at Village Depot Boat Launch.

Romanian reunited with family, A3 Gun Lake casino secures loan, A14

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Grand Journey 15