Video: Construction crew clears debris from whitewater course

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 22, 2013 

A construction crew has been working on and off for the last two weeks to clear wooden debris from an old dam and reshape one of the eight rapids on the Chattahoochee River whitewater course.

A crew from Scott Bridge Co. of Opelika, Ala., which built the $24.4 million course, was working in the river just below the 14th Street Pedestrian Bridge Tuesday morning.

Uptown Columbus Inc. President Richard Bishop said the work would enhance the rapid. Uptown Inc. is a nonprofit downtown development company that has agreements with the cities of Columbus and Phenix City to manage the course.

"We took the material out about two weeks ago and could have left it like that," Bishop said. "We didn't like the way it looked."

The crew is working on the rapid known as Pemberton Falls, a Class III drop that is upriver from the course's signature rapid, Cut Bait.

The whitewater course opened in late May and more than 16,000 rafters went down the river on commercial trips with Chattahoochee outfitter Whitewater Express.

The removal of the wooden structure will make the rapid safer, Whitewater Express owner Dan Gilbert said.

"There was the potential for foot entrapments," Gilbert said. "Since we have the ability to, if we anything that is a safety hazard, we need to fix it."

Bishop said there was more material in the rapid than previously expected.

"When we got it all out, it changed the rapid a little bit," Bishop said.

Workers on Tuesday were putting large rocks in the channel to help enhance the rapid. Gilbert liked what he saw as his guides tested the rapid late in the afternoon.

"There is a neat little 'S' curve going into the rapid," he said.

Bishop did not have a cost for the ongoing project and did not rule out future work on the course, though he said none has been scheduled.

"We are always looking at the full stretch of the river, and if we can do anything reasonable, we will look at it," Bishop said. "… We could do more stuff later in the year, depending on the budget."

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