COLUMBUS, GA - The Columbus City Council is considering an ordinance that would be a first for our area, one that would require people in certain parts of the Chattahoochee River to use personal floatation devices.
The Chattahoochee River seems calm, but Corporal Jeremy Bolen with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says it can be deadly.
"We work drownings every year where people don't know how to swim and they go in there and as a result end up drowning," said Bolen.
Officials say this year there have been at least six people who have died after apparent drownings in the river.
Bolen says there are laws in Georgia when it comes to water safety
"Children under ten have to wear life jackets while the boat is being operated or moving, and anybody that is in any kind of hazardous area have to have a life-jacket on," said Bolen.
However, on Tuesday during city council, Council Member Skip Henderson proposed the city pass a new ordinance that would require people to use a personal floatation device if they are swimming, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, jet-skiing or boating on the river between the North Highland Dam and the southern property line of Columbus Convention and Trade Center.
"I know they are required for boating, but even for folks out there on intertubes or if they are swimming in the river, I think because we are expecting a higher level of traffic we should probably require that they have a floatation device at all times," said Henderson.
He also wants to explore ways to keep those fishing along the river safe as well.
"A lot of the folks will wade out into the little flat areas that they can stand at low water flow and then when the water is released from the dam late in the afternoon, it can rise a matter of 6 or 7 ft in 45 minutes," said Henderson.
Bolen says if you do decide to get in the river, you need to respect the water.
"It is a great idea for anyone who has an business on the water to have a life jacket on," said Bolen.
Council members are set to vote on the ordinance at the next council meeting on November 27. The only exception to the proposal would be sanctioned swimming events and competitions.