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Renew Our Rivers volunteers spiff up Chattahoochee River in advance of kayak World Cup, riverfront festival

The Chattahoochee River got some sprucing up from Renew Our Rivers volunteers in Phenix City, Alabama, and Columbus, Georgia, in advance of two major events taking place this week in the two communities.

Multiple partners in the region, including the East Alabama Chamber of Commerce, worked together to prepare the river as the host site for the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Freestyle World Cup, which began Oct. 3. More than 100 competitors from around the world were scheduled to take part in the event.

The World Cup continues through the weekend with the finals coinciding with the inaugural RushSouth Outdoor Festival taking place Oct. 7-8.

Renew Our Rivers volunteers get busy at the Chattahoochee River. (Contributed)

Volunteers cleaned the riverbank on both sides of the Chattahoochee. Georgia Power’s Hydro Generation team limited the water flow to allow 10 divers to safely clear underwater hazards, such as fishing line and fishhooks, from the rapids.

“Rapids such as Cut-Bait and Ambush are areas where kayakers dive underwater and perform tricks,” said Luis Tabares, operations manager for Whitewater Express. “Ensuring these areas are free from hazards is an important part of our river cleanup to keep our competition kayakers and recreational visitors safe.”

The Russell County Sheriff’s Office coordinated with Chattahoochee Scuba to manage the underwater cleanup efforts. Chattahoochee Scuba is a leading scuba training facility for certifying career scuba professionals including public safety officials.

“Safety is our top priority, and as a partner of local emergency responders we were pleased to coordinate underwater hazard mitigation for this event,” said Lawrence Cleveland, Chattahoochee Scuba operations manager. “We put together an experienced dive team and developed a plan for maximizing efficiency while also ensuring the safety of our divers while clearing the rapids.”

A diver removes potential hazards before the kayaking competition. (contributed)

Renew Our Rivers began in 2000 as a community river cleanup organized by Alabama Power employees from Plant Gadsden who were concerned about litter found along the Coosa River. Today, Renew Our Rivers is one of the nation’s largest river cleanups. With the help of local community partners, volunteers and organizations, Alabama Power has worked with partners, including more than 117,000 volunteers, to remove more than 16 million pounds of trash from Southeastern waterways.

“Since 2013, Alabama Power and Renew Our Rivers have partnered with the Chattahoochee Whitewater Park on river cleanups to protect the environment and support this recreational treasure,” said David Quinney, Alabama Power Community Relations manager in Phenix City. “Our region is attracting worldwide opportunities in watersports, and we are proud to play a role in keeping it safe and beautiful for athletes and recreationalists.”

Learn more about Renew Our Rivers here.

Following this year’s ICF World Cup, the Columbus-Phenix City area is slated to host the 2023 ICF World Championship — the first in the U.S. since 2013.

The Renew Our Rivers program began as a community cleanup in 2000. (contributed)