Posts Tagged ‘Chattahoochee River’

Neal Wickham’s New Dream

October 10, 2013
Neal Wickham at the Rotary Club of Columbus outdoor luncheon  by the  Chattahoochee River Whitewater Rapids.

Neal Wickham at the Rotary Club of Columbus outdoor luncheon by the Chattahoochee River Whitewater Rapids

How about a zip line from atop the Eagle and Phenix smokestacks?  WIckham thinks it's a good idea.

How about a zip line from atop the Eagle and Phenix smokestacks? WIckham thinks it’s a good idea.

First, the dream.  Enter Neal Wickham, retired outdoor supplies retailer, environmentalist, and naturalist.  John Turner, the driving force behind developing the whitewater project on the Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus and Phenix City  credited Wickham with the idea of  breaching the cotton mill dams.  Wickham didn’t deny it. He told me he first made the suggestion back in the 1970s when then Ledger-Enquirer Editorial Page Editor Billy Winn wrote an editorial saying Columbus needed an “it” to promote the area.  Wickham said he wrote to Winn that breaching the mill dams would provide that “it. ”  Turns out he was right.

Turner said the whitewater project is succeeding in getting Columbus the kind of attention it needs to attract people from all over the country.  He said now when he tells people he’s from Columbus, Georgia, they say, “Oh, that city with the crazy river running through the downtown area.”  

Well, guess what? Neal Wickham has come up with another dream that could cause a lot of talk all over America.  He told me today that a zip line attached to the Eagle and Phenix Mill smokestacks crossing the  Chattahoochee River would be a huge attraction.  He is probably right.  Wonder if they are stable enough for elevators to take people to the top to hook onto  the the zip-line.  I’m pretty sure it would be easy to get an expert on such things to find out.  Just imagine what it would be like to zip over the Chattahoochee rapids from Columbus to Phenix City.  As someone at today’s Rotary event said, Wickham would be probably the first to do the zipping.  At 83, he was the oldest Rotarian to ride the rapids in a raft today.

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Adjusting for High Water

June 19, 2013
Running Heaven's Gate at High Water

Running Heaven’s Gate at High Water

When the river reaches flood stage, which it did today, Whitewater Express continues to operate, but only at Heaven’s Gate, and I do mean right there.   The put the rafts in at the Eagle and Phenix Power Plant, run the rapid, paddle back and do it again. They don’t do the long river run, and they don’t do the more challenging Cut Bait on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee.

There are a couple of advantages to doing the short run over and over. For one thing, as a guide told me, “You do improve with practice.” I noticed that was the case. The first time the raft I was watching did a couple of about-faces during the run. The second time it went straight through with no wabbling around. But, the next time, the raft flipped. When I commented that getting the swimmers back on the raft took up time, Blake Quinney, Assistant Director of Operations for Whitewater Express said “They are having fun.” Indeed, it did appear they were.

Another advantage is the rafters get to run Heaven’s Gate as many times as they can get in an hour and a half. The long river runs do it twice. A drawback could be that there are more different rapids to run on the long run.

Blake was pleased with the amount of business they have done so far. Four- thousand people have rafted down the Chattahoochee since the end of May, and he expects to have served as many as twenty-thousand rafters by the end of August.

 

 

14th Street Bridge to Open by September

June 17, 2013

imageAs I peered through the chain link fence that kept me off the 14th Street Bridge,  I was really impressed with the transformation of what was never – at least to me – a handsome structure into something that could actually be called beautiful.  It served its purpose for a long time as a bridge for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, since 1921, but, to me,  its appearance was strictly functional.  And… well… ugly. Now, as a pedestrian bridge designed to be in harmony with the rest of the River Walk, it’s easy on the eyes.

Columbus City Planner Rick Jones says it will open in its new incarnation at either the end of August or in early September.  It was supposed to be open by now, but structural problems with the approach, which include building the tunnel underneath to connect the River Walk on the Georgia side, caused the delay.

Jones said the city also plans to put in a couple of restrooms in the tunnel area.

The Plaza leading into the approach is scheduled to be completed in 2014.  He says that construction won’t prevent the opening of the bridge this year.

Showing my Grandsons How History will be Made and Unmade in Columbus Wednesday

March 19, 2012

It was good to have something interesting to show my grandsons and granddaughter-in-law when they came down from Cumming, GA to see me today. The occasion was the pending deployment of my Air Force grandson Benjamin overseas.. He came down with his brother Christopher  and sister-in-law Kristen. After we had lunch at the Cannon Brew Pub, a favorite restaurant of their’s when they were going to Columbus State, I took them to the Riverwalk so they could see the preparations for the breaching of the historic Eagle and Phenix Dam so whitewater enthusiasts can have a blast running the Chattahoochee River rapids in Columbus and Phenix City.

They found it quite  interesting. Too bad they won’t be here Wednesday when they could witness the dynamiting of the dam. I plan to be in the viewing area near the Dillingham Street Bridge at  three when the explosion takes place. It’ll  be interesting to see a piece of Columbus’ industrial history being blown to bits.

The Tennessee River Solution

June 13, 2010
ATLANTA ATTORNEY SAYS THE U.S. SUPREME COURT WILL INEVITABLY END UP SETTLING THE   BORDER DISPUTE BETWEEN GEORGIA AND TENNESSEE

John Ross Bridge spanning the Tennessee River, Chattanooga, TN

 Atlanta attorney Brad Carver, who works with Governor Sonny Perdue and others on water matters, says tapping into the Tennessee River is the most practical solution to the Atlanta area’s water shortage problem.  Georgia maintains the state border at Nickajack was incorrectly surveyed in 1818, and the correct survey would put a section of the Tennessee in Georgia. 

Atlanta attorney Brad Carver, speaking to the Rotary Club of Columbus, Columbus, GA (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

Carver told Columbus Rotarians that Tennessee is already benefiting economically from Georgia’s water problem.  Prospective industries are becoming wary of North Georgia because of the problem, and some have already decided to locate in Tennessee instead. That’s one of the reasons, maybe the biggest one, that prompts Tennessee to tell Georgia to forget about it. 

 While Georgia is trying to work out something with Tennessee, Carver told me after his Rotary talk that inevitably the U.S. Supreme Court will decide who is right.  He wants Governor Perdue to go ahead and file suit against Tennessee so the court can start deliberating the case.  He said the court is charged with settling disputes between states.  When I reminded him that Perdue won’t be governor much longer, he agreed and said he hoped the suit would be filed soon. Once that legal ball gets rolling, Alabama is sure to get into the game because the Tennessee flows into Alabama. 

River Walk on the Chattahoochee River, Columbus, GA

As far as Georgia taking billions of gallons out of the Tennessee, he said the Tennessee River is so large that it can easily supply water to Atlanta without hurting Tennessee economically or environmentally.  While we may think the Chattahoochee is a big river, it is small compared to the Tennessee. He says the Tennessee is seventeen times as large as the Chattahoochee. 

Lowest Chattahoochee River Flow on Record this Summer

August 6, 2009

LOW RIVER FLOW ENDANGERS DOWNSTREAM ECOLOGY, SAYS BILLY TURNER 

It’s hard to believe, but, even though we are not in a drought and have had a lot of rainfall,  the flow of the Chattahoochee River downstream from the Atlanta area has been the lowest on record this summer.   That’s what former Columbus Water Works Director, and defender of downstream Chattahoochee River interests Billy Turner tells me. 

Billy Turner, former Columbus Water Works Director, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner, former Columbus Water Works Director, Columbus, GA

It has happened because the Corps of Engineers is holding back water at Lake Lanier and West Point in order to store more water in anticipation of a future drought, he says.

But, since the Corps is under court order to keep flows strong enough to satisfy Florida’s need for fresh water to flow into oyster beds in Apalachicola,  how can the Corps hold the water back?

“Because,” says Turner, “the Flint River is supplying enough flow for Appalachicola right now.”

What does this low flow mean for downstream communities?

“The main problem with the Corps reducing flows is that a certain amount of flowing water is needed to assimilate the waste-water discharges at each of these cities and plants,” he says, adding, “These flows were designated in wastewater discharge permits by the respective states and if the appropriate levels of flow are not provided the potential for poor water quality in the streams exist which could impact the ecology. The option to having the appropriate flow is higher levels of wastewater treatment which is very expensive.”

In a meeting in Columbus yesterday, Govenor Perdue, who is trying to unify all sections of the state in face of a federal court ruling that, in three years,  Atlanta can’t take any more water from Lake Lanier,  assured Turner and other business and political leaders that the state is not just concerned with Atlanta’s needs.  According to a Ledger-Enquirer story,  neither Represntative Debbie Buckner nor Turner were convinced.  “I don’t think we came together today,” Turner said. “There has got to be more discussion. What is the deal Georgia has in mind?” 

He had told me erlier, “Georgia will continue to fight for Atlanta’s water needs requardless of the concerns of Columbus and our neighbors. It would be a great step if Georgia would provided a balanced support for all Georgians which could keep us on the same side in the Court actions. To date State government has only shown concern for Atlanta.” 

Turner is a prime leader in a suit filed against the Corps of Engineers demanding that an adequate downstream flow be maintained.

 

Lake Lanier is Up, but Down, and the Center of a Political Storm

July 26, 2009

When I recently drove across the Buford Dam, which backs up the waters of Lake Lanier,  the lake looked pretty full.  It’s 5.35 feet below full pool level.  Compared to record low levels caused by the the 2007 drought,  it looked full. 

Lake Lanier, view from Buford Dam RD,  Buford, Georgia

Lake Lanier, view from Buford Dam RD, Buford, Georgia

That impression has to be tempered with the fact that the lake is dropping again, releasing  a lot more water than its collecting from its watershed. In fact, it is down about a foot from June. 

Now, to complicate matters even further,  a federal judge, as you probably know, has ruled that Metro Atlanta doesn’t have the right to take water from the lake,  and will have to stop in three years unless Congress passes a law changing the designated purpose of the lake,  flood control and generation of hydroelectric power. 

The judge’s ruling is being hailed as a great victory for Alabama, who wants the water to cool a nuclear power plant, and Florida, who wants a good flow to protect its oyster crop at Apalachicola.

That ruling, however, is a disaster for the Atlanta area, and, some believe, since the Atlanta economic engine is so important to the state, the rest of Georgia has to be very concerned.

There is another reason a lot of  us wanting Metro Atlanta to have the water it needs, relatives who live there.  I took a look a the lake Sunday because I happened to be visiting my son Rick, daughter-in-law Marian, and my two  grandsons, Ben and Chris. They live in Cumming, which is no distance at all from the lake.

Being a downstream Columbusite, I want a good, steady Chattahoochee River flow for our area,  and I can sympathise with Alabama and Florida,  but I am still concerned about the Atlanta area.  It is the economic engine that drives this state, and it’s our state’s big league city.  Besides that, like me,  just about everyone in Georgia has a relative or friend who lives in Metro Atlanta.

What to do? What to do?

Governor Perdue is taking legal action, and has asked the states two Republican Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, to go to work to get Congressional approval of a law that allows Atlanta to take water from the lake.  The say they will.

Some are saying that, instead of relying on that approach, the state should start developing alternative sources for the water, things like more resorvoirs and getting Tennessee to allow Georgia to take some its water from the Tennessee River,  a part of which might actually be inside the Georgia state line.  That assumption is being protested by folks in Tennessee.

There is a lot of blame to go around in this water mess.  Many political leaders have basically ignored the problem for a long time.  They might like to continue to ignore it, but they can’t.  It has reached the crisis stage.

Florida is Turning the Gulf of Mexico into a Toilet

July 1, 2008

 

A few years ago, I took a cruise from Bainbridge, Georgia to Apalachicola, Florida. I kept seeing these little shacks sitting on fishing piers along the Apalachicola River.

 

“You know what those are?” a fellow environmentalists on the cruise asked.

 

“No.”

 

“They are claimed to be places to wash and clean fish, but most of them are toilets. Fishermen use those.”

 

“How do they get away with that? Isn’t that illegal?”

 

“Like I said, they claim they are places to clean and wash fish. But, they’re toilets.”

 

Now, I can’t really confirm they were toilets because I didn’t get to look inside any of them. But, the story did bring home the problem of human waste polluting streams, which, I would have thought had pretty much been solved by waste water treatment plants. That appears not to be the case in Florida.

 

Turns out that Florida has turned the Gulf of Mexico into a toilet, according to study by the Clean Water Network of Florida. I was alerted to this by a Florida website that linked to Dick’s World. You can read it by clicking this link.