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Whitewater Rapids Boost Local Economies, Fish Populations
What does whitewater rafting have to do with fish populations? Our restoration project in Georgia, which created whitewater rapids on the Chattahoochee River, will help bring tourists and boost the local economy. But it will also help bring fish back to the river.
The Chattahoochee River runs along the border between Georgia and Alabama. Near the cities of Columbus, Ga. and Phenix City, Ala., two 175-year-old dams blocked the natural rapids from flowing. The water behind the dams inundated important spawning habitat for Alabama shad and striped bass. The dams also prevented these fish from reaching habitat upstream.
With the completion of this project, the river is flowing naturally again, with 2.5 miles of river now ideal for whitewater rafting and fish. We are already seeing increases in fish populations as they swim past the site of the old dams.
Local communities are now embracing the riverfront, ushering in a river-based economic revitalization. A newly built riverwalk joins riverfront housing and retail development that is thriving. As many as 700 jobs are likely to be added as rafting outfitters open shops in the area. Whitewater Columbus, which is now the longest whitewater rafting course in the United States, is expected to bring in $42 million, and thousands of tourists, each year.
The dam removals are part of a long-term river restoration effort. We are looking toward implementing fish passage at other dams upstream in the future.
Posted July 1, 2013