By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - Seven people have lost their lives in the Chattahoochee River so far this year. Most recently fisherman swept under while he was swimming and a mother and her two young children being pulled under during a family outing.
Columbus City Council says it's time for the drownings to stop.
At-Large Councilman Skip Henderson has proposed a new city ordinance that would require swimmers, kayakers, canoers, jet skiers and boaters to wear life jackets.
"With the increased traffic we are going to see down there as a result of the Whitewater course, I know they are required for boating, but just for folks out there on inner tubes or if they're swimming in the river, since we are expecting a higher turnout on the river I think we should require a floatation device at all times," Henderson says.
Right now in Georgia, there are no laws that require adults wear life jackets unless they are in designated hazardous areas.
"Children under 10 have to be wearing a life jacket if the boat is being operated or moving," Cpl. Jeremy Bolen with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says.
This new ordinance would require life jackets be worn in the river between the Old Bibb Mill Dam and the southern property line of the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.
"It's a great idea, it's going to be a positive thing. Those areas have rough water so most definitely people need to have the life jackets on," Bolen says.
Henderson says he also thinks the ordinance should be adapted to include fisherman as well.
"A lot of the folks wade out into the little flat areas so they can stand at low water flow and when the water is released from the dam late in the afternoon it can rise a matter of 6-7 feet in 45 minutes," Henderson says.
Officials say this ordinance the first of this kind that they know of in the state.
"I think you've got to be innovative and our job as local officials is to try and make sure people are safe," Henderson says.
And to ensure that safety, law enforcement would be looking for those life jackets.
"While we are on patrol, it's something we will be looking for in those areas that are hazardous areas and make sure those people have life jackets on," Bolen says.
Council will vote on the ordinance at their next meeting on November 27th.
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