You might not notice it for a few days but help is finally on the way to shore up a section of the Chattahoochee Riverwalk that practically disappeared in January during heavy rains, Columbus officials said Friday.
A big section of the 16-mile trail extending from Lake Oliver south to downtown and Fort Benning was damaged Jan. 3 near the boat ramp at Rotary Park when rain-soaked soil was washed down the Chattahoochee River. After much study and design engineering to repair the failed slope that houses an 11-foot trail and a 54-inch sewer line beneath it, the Columbus Water Works has awarded a contract to Kiewit Infrastructure South with an office in Peachtree City, Ga., said Vic Burchfield, vice president of information, security and environmental services at the Water Works.
The construction cost is $1,098,000 and it’s expected to be completed in January 2018, he said. Walkers, joggers and bike riders raised concerns about the trail because of current safety issues although the area is barricaded and posted with detours.
Burchfield said the work was a bit more than filling in the hole with dirt. “It is much more complicated than that,” he said.
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Work on the Riverwalk started with the sewer project in the early 1990s and wasn’t completed until 1995. Heavy rains have caused problems along the trail over the years because all the trees were removed for the huge sewer line and dirt along the bank was compacted but not like it was naturally.
“The assessment we did determined that the cause was due to rainfall infiltrating or soaking into the riverbank,” Burchfield said. In other words, heavy rains created water pressure in the slope and sometimes the area disappeared when the water level went back down in the river.
Donna Newman, director of engineering for the Consolidated Government, is aware of such concerns with erosion throughout the city. She believes some of the erosion in Rotary Park came with the rise and fall of the Chattahoochee River but she also noted that 2015 was one of the wettest years in history.
“Once you go in and disrupt the natural soil with the Riverwalk construction and sanitary sewers, that soil is not compacted like it was originally,” she said. “ It can get loose over time and you can have some erosion problems.”
I never thought the phrase, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” would apply to this work on the Chattahoochee but apparently it does. Burchfield would like to see the river rising less than it has in the past while the construction is underway.
“If the river gets up, it may hamper their efforts to get in there and do their work on that slope,” he said.
Another concern is for the safety of the park users until the work is completed. “We are asking the public to avoid that area for safety,” Burchfield said. “That is why the Water Works along with the city put in the bypass walk area. It goes up and around that whole area.”
If you are riding or walking low along the river, you are in the construction area. Stay on the high ground with the small asphalt path to bypass the collapsed area.
“The main thing is we want to remind people to be safe as they go through the park,” Burchfield said. “We want them to be safe as they use the park. While we got the bypass there and it’s paved, it should be user friendly to use the bypass.”
If you have seen something that needs attention, give me a call.