Public Comment: The Grand Strategy and investment proposal

Investment in the Grand Strategy is essential to both the short and long term health of the Grand River and its surrounding communities in West Michigan. Granting funds to the Strategy would ensure a strengthened and resilient West Michigan, fully capable of handling disaster prevention and relief, expansion of green infrastructure and services, increased quality of living, and attraction of new residents and private investment. As a whole, the Grand Strategy promises to promote growth and prosperity for the region’s future generations.

West Michigan Environmental Action Council praises the work of the Michigan Department of Economic Development, Kent County, the Grand River Corridor Municipalities and partnering nonprofits who emerge from this process prepared to compete nationally to leverage climate resiliency investments for Kent County.  The act of planning itself, leaves our region’s families and communities better prepared to address climate impacts in our region.  Thousands of families are less vulnerable today, as a result of your efforts.  A bright future can be expected for our quickly growing economy and region.

Further, after many decades of advocacy, the environmental community is relieved to witness the moment when climate impacts are being recognized and prioritized for investment. The scale of commitment of time and energy on the part of our committed local government employees and elected officials is to be commended and will not be taken for granted.

WMEAC offers the following insights, intended to be generative and further strengthen an already strong program and proposal of investments:

Recommendation 1 – Mitigate Climate Contributions

Strengthen the presence of clean, renewable, and decentralized energy project concepts in the proposal.  Climate mitigation priorities are a missing theme from the approach.  Kent County needs more than an energy district: We need many clean energy districts, a regional energy plan, pilot projects that demonstrate the multitude of approaches to finance and install clean energy.  Climate mitigation is our community’s responsibility – businesses, institutions and individual property owners.  Therefore The Grand Strategy cannot be an “adaptation only” response; it must include methods to help citizens accelerate their efforts to reduce their human impact to climate change.

Recommendation 2 – Strengthen the Approach to Highlight Human Impact

People must lead.  This proposal will go to the office of Housing and Urban Development.  The narrative of each aspect of the plan should be driven through human impact – not via economic or ecological lenses.  HUD doesn’t care much about fish passage infrastructure, but it does care that people have more fish to eat, and that those fish are harvested from a healthy ecosystem.

For example:

  • Reducing risk for flooding will protect the wealth of families in flood prone areas of the city.
  • Reducing risk of disruptive energy loss to families during high water events and thereby reducing risk of disruption to families’ daily lives, thereby preventing job loss, truancy, etc.
  • Quality of life and health benefits from more recreational amenities.
  • Increased job opportunities from investment and redevelopment of the underutilized river corridor.

Recommendation 3 – Energy Independence for First Responders

Independent, clean energy sources are needed for hospitals, first responders, and other critical service operations in and/or serving the Grand Strategy Corridor.  Our first responders should not be reliant on a vulnerable grid and unsustainable fossil fuels in order to respond to our community in moments that call us to be prepared.

Recommendation 4 – Show us a Climate Resilient Home

Climate resilient homes and neighborhoods are one of the most important aspects of this plan and our ability to be resilient.  Residential neighborhoods constitute the largest land use in our community and while not publicly owned, residential neighborhoods are infrastructure.  In the images that you share publicly and submit to the contest, we should be including a model climate resilient home.

Recommendation 5 – Showcase the Partnerships

West Michigan has a long history of showcasing our ability to collaborate across sectors – businesses, governments and non-profits working together.  Highlight this in your public dialogue and in the submission to the contest.


(Photo by Chris Clark of MLive)

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