No more dying in the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Bow River is the river that flows through the city of Calgary in Western Canada where I'm from, and I never really ever tried to go into it because I remember reading all the time about accidents happening there involving something called a weir, which apparently was built in the 1910s for irrigation purposes but also resulted in an undercurrent that sweeps people under the river and keeps them there for a long time, which is why a lot of people have died there.

At the time though I had no idea what a weir was, and was under the impression that it was something to do with the river itself; that you would be on a boat one day at any location along the river and then all of a sudden along comes the weir and you're dead. So it seemed wiser to just never go in the river.

I was just telling someone I knew about that and upon doing a search through Google News, it appears that the weir is going to be remade into something that doesn't kill people:

After 14 deaths and years of delays, renovations to the Bow River weir aimed at taming its deadly effects could start as early as next month.

The provincial government approved the $16.6-million construction project Monday, ending the wait for those who had long advocated for the elimination of the "drowning machine."

"The best news is that we can get going," said Norm Harburn, president of Parks Foundation Calgary, which has been involved in the project.

The cost is around 150 per cent higher than the original $6.5-million estimate given when the project was announced in 2005.

Rising construction costs have been blamed for the spike in the overall bill, but the father of one of the weir's most recent victims said it's worth it.

"If it can save more lives, all the better," said Marcel Bherer, whose 28-year-old son, Yan, died last summer after going over the weir.

Yan's friend, 28-year-old Remi Bouchard, also died that day. Bouchard's body has yet to be found.

"You have a pretty river right in the middle of the city," Bherer said. "You should enjoy it, but right now, it's dangerous."
The completion date: 2010 or so.
Work could begin as soon as next month, depending on river flows, and rafters could be floating past a new-look weir by the summer of 2010.

The full project, landscaping and all, is slated to be finished within three years.
Here's the page you want to reference for information on the weir as it currently stands:
What if I fall into the water?
Presently, a fall over the weir would almost certainly lead to death. Once the modifications are in place, falling into the water above the weir will be like falling into other sections of the Bow River. There will be areas of faster water separated by slow, deep pools from which most people can easily swim or walk to shore. As on the rest of the Bow River, all river users need to be aware of the hazards of falling in.
See, that's the type of info I read all the time as a child. Falling 'over the weir' means death, sans explanation of exactly what a weir was.


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