County gets initial look at canoe/kayak launch plans

ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County Commissioners got a first look at the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority's plans for Riverfront Park canoe and kayak launches during the commission's business meeting Monday morning.

ADICA President Aaron Blair and Lanier Engineering Project Manager Wayne Schaffner told the commission the authority has submitted paperwork needed to obtain local, state and federal permits and should find out soon if additional information is needed on the three planned launches: one in the park, one at Ray Charles Plaza and improvements on an existing launch upriver at the Georgia Power Dam.

"We've finished with local requirements; state requirements are about 70 percent complete, and federal requirements are at about 50 percent," Schaffner said. "We've had one question from the EPD (Environmental Protection Division) regarding mitigation, and we're near the end of the 60-day state and federal review processes."

Commissioners expressed enthusiasm about the proposed project, which is expected to cost between $150,000 and $200,000 and will be funded by ADICA.

"This is a unique opportunity for our community to utilize this wonderful resource that we've been blessed with," Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said. "This is the kind of project that makes us stronger. If any of you have ever canoed down the Flint (River), that's an area of phenomenal beauty."

Blair said the canoe/kayak launch opens a number of possibilities for the downtown central business district and for regional tourism.

"These launches will enhance education programs at the Flint RiverQuarium and will allow our CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) to partner for regional marketing with the whitewater rafting attraction in Columbus," the ADICA president said. "We've got the 'Flint Floats' that (go by the launches), fly fishing and this provides an opportunity for us to recruit an outfitter to locate downtown."

Schaffner, himself a boating enthusiast, said, pending regulatory approval, work on the project should begin in September or October, "when the river is typically at its lowest." Answering a question from Commissioner Clinton Johnson, the project manager said work on the project could be finished in three to six months, depending on weather conditions.

Blair told Commissioner Lamar Hudgins locating the launches in close proximity at Riverfront Park and at the Ray Charles Plaza offers boaters an opportunity to put into the water on either side of the rapids that are a feature of the river. Blair said plans are for the launches to operate during typical park hours.

Also at Monday's meeting, commissioners approved the 2013 millage rates for the countywide general fund (11.894) and the county's special services district (9.272). The rates are unchanged from the previous fiscal year.

The commission also voted to reappoint Dawn Benson to a position on the Albany Area Community Service Board. The board receives $68,000 of its $15 million budget from the county.