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Battle Creek – Battle Creek officials are looking to replace the concrete channel that brings the Kalamazoo River downtown with a more natural option to encourage residents to enjoy the water while still protecting the area from flooding.

The city has reached out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for help with the project, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.

“In order for us to really fulfill our vision as a vibrant downtown, we need to address this Kalamazoo River channel,” Assistant City Manager Ted Dearing said.

The Corps plans to request an initial $100,000 from the federal government for a federal interest determination project, said Jim Luke, an outreach coordinator with the organization.

A feasibility study would then have to be conducted.

“From an environmental point of view, it would certainly be the right thing to do for the river, but the flip side of that is that it’s an economic development asset that we need to utilize,” Dearing said. “We’ve got this nice river running through here, and this really ugly channel that’s an economic development barrier for us right now.”

The city is also in talks with the state Department of Transportation to acquire a road that runs along the river so the river channel could be expanded.

“This creates an opportunity for us to naturalize this river because we now have potentially additional space to widen the river,” Dearing said.

The department and the city are expected to meet later this month to discuss the issue.

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