Applied Policy Seminar project cited in MLive story on economic potential of Kalamazoo River

April 6, 2015

An MLive story published this weekend on the economic potential of the long-polluted Kalamazoo River cited the work of a six-member team in Elisabeth Gerber’s 2012 Applied Policy Seminar (APS) course, now called Strategic Public Policy Consulting or SPPC. 

Salmon, steelhead fishing seen as potential boon as Kalamazoo River improves,” written by Rosemary Parker, chronicled the river’s recent recovery following decades of contamination. “The river has come a long way from its days as an industrial sewer, and its infamy of 1953, when Life Magazine published a photo of a massive fish die-off captioned ‘Four Acres of Carp Corpses on the Kalamazoo,’” writes Parker.

Today, municipalities along the river are discussing strategies to capitalize on its newfound vitality. Much focus centers on the “huge economic potential” sport fishing in the river could provide to upstream communities. However, for this to happen, migrating fish need to be allowed to get upstream, according to Scott Hanshue, a fisheries management biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Two years ago, the city of Plainwell, located along the river, asked students in Gerber’s APS course to develop a regional economic development plan that would allow migratory fish to do so. 

Over the course of a semester, the team assigned to the task conducted a cost-benefit analysis “to measure the feasibility of removing … dams or constructing fish ladders around them … in order to restore the fishery sooner rather than later.” Their findings and recommendations were compiled in “Fishing for the Future,” a report submitted to Plainwell in December 2012.

The team – which was comprised of Komal Aggarwal (MPP ’13), Bilal Chatha (MPP ’13), Jeff Kessner (MPP ’13), Maharshi  Vaishnav (MPP '13), Eva Wolkowitz (MPP '13), and Jessica Worl (MPP ’13) – estimated that benefits of rehabilitating the river as quickly as possible would total $109 million, mostly from the increase in property values and natural environment benefits.

The Applied Policy Seminar, now called Strategic Public Policy Consulting or SPPC, is a  graduate-level course that allows Ford School students to complete a commissioned policy research project for a public-sector client. Under the direction of a faculty advisor, students have tackled dozens of significant public policy problems for municipalities, government officials, and organizations like Amnesty International and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.