MILLEDGEVILLE — Chief Tom Dietrich of the Milledgeville Fire Department recently noticed a rise in the number of rescues at the Oconee River Greenway. Since his observation, he has been working tirelessly through multiple modes of communication to various representatives in the community in an attempt to address this issue.
A brainstorming session for possible solutions to the problem is slated for 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 22 at Milledgeville City Hall. Representatives from Georgia Power, Oconee River Greenway, Milledgeville Police Department and Milledgeville Code Enforcement, along with first responders and fire rescue personnel, will be in attendance at this impertinent meeting.
“It's the first step in finding a solution,” said Dietrich. “By coming together, we will be able to bounce some ideas off of each other and try to figure out what we can do to prevent people from getting stranded when the river rises.”
The Oconee River Greenway is set up in a way that makes fishing, swimming and kayaking more assessable, but most people underestimate the power of the Oconee River currents, according to Dietrich.
“Even a good swimmer can't fight against the power of a current that strong,” he said.
Dietrich points out that the rise in river levels have been caused by Georgia Power's hydro plants and the unusual amount of rain that the area has seen this summer.
“Normally in June and July, we are begging for rain, but this year our area experienced six weeks of rain every day,” said Dietrich.
The Oconee River stretches for 220 miles from Hall County to tributaries in the Ocmulgee River. When rain hits anywhere within that 220 mile area, it is collected in the river, causing a rise in river levels and stronger currents.
Also in attendance at the meeting will be college safety representatives. According to Dietrich, most of the people who come out to enjoy the river are college students and perhaps more education on how to be safe while fishing or swimming may help.
“The students in this city are from all over and they may not be aware of proper safety measures if they are ever caught in a dangerous river current. Our hope is to educate them so that the number of rescues will decrease and they can enjoy the Greenway without having to worry about being stranded,” he said.
A representative from Georgia College has agreed to attend the brainstorming session. Dietrich is still in the process of contacting officials at Georgia Military College and Central Georgia Technical College.
“We're hoping that this meeting will not only bring the problem to the surface, but will also help us find a useful and productive solution,” said Dietrich.