Augusta City Leaders tour Columbus, Ga. whitewater course

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WJBF) - Augusta city leaders spent their Thursday touring a whitewater course in Columbus, Georgia.

There's been lots of talk about what to do with the lock and dam, and bringing a whitewater feature is an option. 

Bringing life to not only the Chattahoochee River's ecosystem, but also the city. Columbus unveiled its whitewater course 5 years ago, and Augusta city leaders learned the ins and outs.

Rick McLaughlin out of Colorado designs courses all over the country, including Columbus's. He joined Thursday's adventure and the Savannah Riverkeeper is hoping he will do the same for the Garden City.

"Both have the amount of flow, the amount of drop and access around it of what we would call national or even international statute," says McLaughlin

Right now, the Army Corp. of Engineers are coming up with a plan so the endangered short-nose sturgeon fish can pass safely through the river. Expected to make a decision next month-- either way, the lock and dam will be demolished. 

But the big question: Where will the money come from? 

"We have people with resources, and hopefully they will buy into the vision of it," says Augusta Commissioner Ben Hasan. "Hopefully they will make a contribution to it. That is what has made it successful in Columbus."

Columbus's whitewater course: $27-million dollars. The city, though, only invested $5 million. 

Less than a decade ago, Columbus's busy downtown street was a ghost town. City leaders say it took private investors and people willing to except change to bring whitewater, and they say it has only sparked growth.

"Our story is continuing in the downtown area, on Broadway, on the Riverwalk and even across the river in Phenix City, Alabama," says Ross Horner, President of Uptown Columbus Inc.

Horner tells us economic growth has risen 55 percent since the project catapulted.

And 75 percent of people taking on the river activities are people traveling from out of town.

But he says it's always expanding with zip lining and splash pads, there is fun for everyone. 

On Friday, whitewater designers are presenting two possible ideas about bringing a course to Augusta. That takes place at the Phinizy Center for Water Sciences at 9 a.m.

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