Uptown Columbus and its Ready 2 Raft 2012 campaign wants to start construction on access points to the Chattahoochee for rafts, kayaks and more by spring.
Project officials met with Phenix City leaders to ask for their approval before the group submits its application to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
“This is another step in the permitting process and the erosion and sediment control permit associated with the access,” said John Turner of the W.C. Bradley Company. “We’ll apply for that permit with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, but we need y’all to bless it before we make that application.”
On Monday, the group showed City Manager Wallace Hunter, members of the Phenix City Council and various other department heads where all the possible access points on the river could be for the $23 million project.
“What I’ll be showing you is what we call our everything-but-the-kitchen-sink drawings. In the permitting process we want to get a permit for everything that we could conceivably need in terms of access for constructing this project,” Turner said. “Now we won’t be using all that access, but it’s a lot easier to get it approved on the front-end. It will save us a lot of time and money as we contract for the job.”
Turner said the actual access sites will be determined by the contractor, who will be in place by the end of the year.
But Turner did assure council that approving those sites now would not mean forfeiting their rights to be included in future discussions.
“This is just to get us a permit and it gives the contractor maximum flexibility,” he said. “We’ll refine that and we’ll be back and we’ll ask for your actual permission before we start.”
Phenix City Engineer and Director of Public Works Angel Morris questioned Turner about the amount of time the project would take and how long residents would not have access to various streets, the Riverwalk and Phenix City’s amphitheater.
“The project would be done in phases,” said Newt Aaron, president of Newton Aaron & Associates, a construction management firm. “Everything wouldn’t be done at once.”
Plans call for work to begin in April below the old Eagle and Phenix Mill area.
Morris also expressed concerns about who was responsible for restoring areas that were disturbed.
“If we tear up the Riverwalk, then we will repair it after we get through with construction,” Turner said.
The project, which has been discussed for more than 10 years, will require access from both sides of the river. Organizers have held similar meetings with Columbus officials.
Project officials said support from both municipalities is important to get the project moving.
“Within the next couple of weeks is when we need to complete the application,” said Billy Turner, the former president of Columbus Water Works. “We’ll have it on the Columbus side by then. We’ve met with them several times, just like we have met with y’all. We’ve kind of got the access points worked out over there. It’s been a long, long series of steps. We’re trying to get to where we can start construction in the spring.”
Hunter expressed concerns about the construction timeline. The city currently has several road and bridge improvement projects going taking place.
“We have to look at not getting in each others way,” Hunter said. “They’re getting ready to start work on the 14th Street bridge and we have a couple of other projects going on.”
However, Turner assured Hunter the selected contractor would work with any existing contractors on any existing projects.
“There’s going to be another step down the road where we’re going to have to talk about what are we going to actually tear up, how long are we going to tear it up for and how are we going to manage the work site,” he said.
Hunter wanted assurance that the Whitewater project would not interfere with work already under way and potentially cost the city additional money.
“It’s just a matter of making sure that we don’t give our contractors who are already working any excuse for a delay and for them not to be able to complete their work,” Hunter said.
Kirsten J. Barnes is an independent correspondent for the Ledger-Enquirer.