Crews install first steel piece of 'wave-shaper' for new whitewater rapid

Another piece of Columbus’ whitewater course was set in place Thursday as construction crews with a crane installed a steel “wave-shaper” device on the Chattahoochee River’s Georgia side.

“It’s the first of two pieces that will complete the installation of the steel pieces of the wave-shaper,” Uptown Columbus President Richard Bishop said as he watched the work from the riverside deck of the old Eagle & Phenix Mill powerhouse.

The 34-foot-long piece of heavy duty steel weighed nearly 17,000 pounds, and was manufactured by S.L. Green of Smiths Station, Ala., he said.

“Its twin is fatter,” Bishop said. “It weighs 23,000 pounds.”

Set in a concrete box below what remains of the breached Eagle & Phenix dam, the steel pieces will be adjusted to the river’s flow as that section of dam is gradually removed, he said. That way workers can “tune” the whitewater rapid to fit the river’s flow.

“Once we get it tuned, we’ll lock it in that area and leave it,” he said. “As part of the tuning, we will breach the dam at certain levels to simulate the different flows, and we’ll tune it to where we think it’s the best for the flow,” Bishop said.

The demolition of that section of the Eagle & Phenix dam likely will start in January, as will the breaching of the City Mills dam upstream, he said. The entire 2.5-mile whitewater course is expected to be finished next summer, he said.

Next to the wave-shaper, workers also were mortaring river rocks together Thursday to hold them in place when the water’s released.

Below the wave-shaper, an incline slopes up to concrete pads that will be underwater when the current comes through, Bishop said.

Whitewater enthusiasts rate rapids by Class I through VI, with the higher number marking the most difficult and dangerous. Bishop said the river’s flow and the tuning of the wave-shaper will determine what class rapid is there.

“Once we breach this dam and breach City Mills, our outfitters will be able to get in and tell us what class rapid we’ve got,” he said.