Dwayne Jamison, deputy chief of the Bartow County Fire Department, joined us on Hometown Headlines Radio Edition on WRGA 98.7 FM on Wednesday, June 20, to talk water safety on the “extremely dangerous” Etowah River.” The agency has worked seven to eight rescues involving multiple kayakers or others in recent weeks, he says.
Among the issues are novice kayakers and canoeists, the changing water released schedule from the dam, intoxicated kayakers, debris and other potential underwater hazards and — most critical — the lack of life jackets (personal flotation devices), Jamison says.
In the interview, available above by clicking the above SoundCloud file (12-minute audio), Jamison tells of one rescue call where crews arrived to find an unreported boater in distress before the person who had made the call for help.
One thing that has helped fire/rescue teams, he says, are the number of markers now lining the Bartow County portions of the Etowah, give rescue teams a better idea on where to find those in need of assistance. Efforts are under way to add the markers to the Floyd County side of the river as well, Jamison says.
He also recommends kayakers call the dam release hot line to find the water release schedule before planning a trip (see below). During a release, water levels can rise quickly, surprising those on what was shallow water just minutes earlier.
Look for a consortium of river and public safety officials to meet in early July to discuss expanded safety recommendations for using our rivers, following the recent close calls with Rome’s Big Float.
LOCAL RIVER LEVELS
Etowah River near Dixon Landing/Grizzard Park off the Bypass: Latest report
Oostanaula River at Turner McCall near Riverside Parkway: Latest report
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers information hot line: Call for the water release schedule — 706-334-7213