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City workers dry up Marina to repair dam

Nov. 20, 1997

Sailing classes resort to canoeing in pool during maintenance work

By Jennifer Jones

Reporter for The Baylor Lariat

Driving by the Baylor Marina might startle the unwary Baylor student because the concrete basin is empty. The City of Waco has purposely lowered the level of the Brazos River to tackle several maintenance projects below the water line, leaving the Marina dry.

'It is a scheduled lowering,' John Hatchel, assistant city manager, said. 'We planned to make minor repairs to the dam and, this time, coordinated those with two other projects.'

In addition to routine maintenance on the dam, contractors are also working on extending the river walk and maintenance repairs on a main sewer line, Hatchel said. Sandblasting and painting are part of the maintenance work on a bridge and the main sewer line on site at the marina.

The water level will be brought back up for river festivities at the beginning of December, Hatchel said.

'We'll bring the level back up for Christmas on the Brazos, an annual city celebration,' Hatchel said. 'By the middle of December, we'll let it back down for four or five weeks so the contractors won't be held up any longer.'

The river's water level is controlled all over the city by a hydraulically operated dam, Hatchel said. The dam holds the river's level constant throughout the city when it is in full working order.

'If the dam were not there at all, the river would be at this level all the time,' Hatchel said.

Baylor's human performance department uses the marina for sailing and canoeing classes, and sailing is not always affected by the lower water levels scheduled by the city, Burna F. Battles, a sailing and canoeing instructor, said. Currently, the class cannot sail, but works in the pool with canoes.

'About four times a year the city drops the water level two or three feet, but normally we can continue classes by using the canoes,' Battles said. 'The water usually doesn't go all the way out.'

The sailing classes utilize the pools when the Marina is unavailable for rescue training or swamp canoe skills, Battles said. The classes this semester will learn canoe skills in the pool including how to get water out of the canoe and how to handle capsized canoes.

'This semester we were just getting ready to conduct skills tests in sailing, so the students are not at all unhappy about the water lowering,' Battles said.

The classes will finish their final written examinations while the water is still out, and then go back to sailing the last day of class if the city stays on schedule, Battles said. The beginning of next semester will present a challenge if the water is still out after the first week of classes. The first several class meetings, students will discuss theory on sailing and prepare for their first sail through safety measures in the pool, Battles said. He did not express concern over the water becoming an obstacle for next semester's sailing classes.

'There are several things we can do while the water is out, and if it's just low, we will work on canoeing skills,' Battles said. 'The students always learn enough to go out and enjoy a day of sailing.'

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