Contractor to be honored at international CONEXPO-CON/AGG equipment exposition for making a significant difference for the community’s quality of life
What would you do if the quality-of-life goals of your city were to boost the local economy by adding jobs and enticing more tourism with a serious recreational destination? You’d build an urban whitewater course, right? That’s what they did in west central Georgia.
After 13 years in the making, the world’s largest urban whitewater rafting course opened in May 2013 – a 2.5-mile stretch located on the Chattahoochee River between Columbus, in west central Georgia, and Phenix City, Ala.
The course is on track to add more than 700 jobs to the area, bringing in as many as 100,000 tourists and contributing $42 million annually to the local economy, as avid rafters, fishermen and river surfers enjoy a multitude of water-related activities.
Just as important: this construction project has helped the Chattahoochee River return to its natural state, restoring the habitat for fresh water mussel, shoal bass and other species, much to the delight of fishermen.
Whitewater Course Draws International Attention
The new course elevated the river from “easy” Class I status to higher “difficult” and “very difficult” whitewater rafting levels, enough to draw international competitions, as well as kayakers, and other water crafters. The course includes Class IV rapids and 10 smaller rapids and reaches a volume of 13,000 cubic feet per second.
Countless truckloads of dirt and rock were moved, and thousands of yards of concrete pumped during the project, which included removal of two 100-year-old dams that had impeded the natural flow of the river: the Eagle & Phenix Dam, built in 1868, and the 105-year old City Mills Dam.
Dan Gilbert, President of Whitewater Express, a professional outfitter located on the Chattahoochee, said the project has already made a huge impact on the area. “The river has become the site of recreation, the talk of the community, and the place to go to watch the rafts! We took more than 5,000 people down the river in the five weeks following opening day on May 25.”
Project Worked Downstream from Active Hydroelectric Plant
“It was definitely a project that was very different from others we’ve worked on,” said Matt Stahl, co-owner of StahlCo Pumping, Phenix, City, Ala., whose company’s concrete pumps placed more than 4,100 cubic yards of concrete into the infrastructure needed to build the course. The company worked on the project for about 20 months along with general contractor Batson-Cook, of West Point, Ga., and Scott Bridge Company, Opelika, Ala.
Calling the project “a challenging one” and having great concern for environmental issues, Stahl said much of the work StahlCo performed was done while working downstream from an active hydroelectric plant. Crews had set hours each day to pour concrete. By early afternoon they would clear their equipment and Georgia Power increased the water flow for electricity production. By 5 p.m. the just-poured area would be under 15 feet of water. At sunrise the power company would reduce the water flow and the concrete work for the day began two hours later when the level dropped enough.
Another obstacle occurred when a deep hole in one channel of the river created a vortex requiring five months of concrete pumping under constantly changing water conditions to contour the bottom of the river. The complicated process called for divers to fill fabric bags with a special concrete mix to fill the void. The nylon fabric bags were sewn together into the shape of the river bed, placed in the water, then filled with concrete and sealed to create three 20-foot steps providing the turbulence necessary to propel rafts and other water craft.
Revitalized Economy and Environment: River Now Center of Community
More than 1,000 people visited the city during grand opening weekend of the rafting course, and interest has remained steady. Stahl said now on days when he crosses the Chattahoochee from his company’s Phenix City, Ala. location to go into Columbus for lunch he will see five to 10 rafts. “A typical raft will hold six people. So it would really equate to 30 to 50 people rafting the course.”
“We opened a location in Columbus specifically because of the urban whitewater course,” said Brent Troncalli, owner of The Outside World, outdoor equipment and apparel stores. “During the first month the course opened, we saw a 10-percent increase in sales. We’ve had continued growth since then.”
The river has received much national publicity and Stahl said it’s been great to see outdoor enthusiasts now enjoying the high class of rapids.
In addition, he is very pleased to have the river return to its natural state and for the economy to change course along with it – having evolved from serving the now defunct cotton mill industry to becoming the center of tourist activities.
Stahl says that being an area resident, with his company located in the community, has special meaning: the project is now a part of StahlCo’s legacy. “It’s been a lot of fun and we are proud to be involved with the project and to be part of the history of the river.”
Perhaps Dan Gilbert best summarized the long-term impact of the project, “The community looks to the river as the center of their city now.”
For contributions to our quality of life, StahlCo Pumping will be recognized at North America’s largest construction equipment trade show, CONEXPO-CON/AGG. A company representative and one guest will receive a free trip to the show in Las Vegas in March 2014.
At CONEXPO-CON/AGG, they will see all the innovative new equipment that will continue to support their work for better living brought to you by the men and women of the construction industries.
CONEXPO-CON/AGG is the international gathering place in North America for the construction industries. The event features exhibits of the latest technologies and innovations in equipment, products and services plus extensive industry-targeted education. The next CONEXPO-CON/AGG is March 4-8, 2014 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, USA. More than 100,000 attendees are expected. For more information about CONEXPO-CON/AGG, visit www.conexpoconagg.com.