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New safety plan for Harvie Passage upsets paddling groups

CALGARY- A plan to install a new boom on the Bow River has local paddling groups concerned it will raise kayakers’ risk of flipping.

The Calgary Fire Department has applied to Transport Canada to install the new safety boom upstream from Harvie Passage, in hopes it will prevent those without strong paddling skills from entering the waterway.

However, paddling groups are concerned a boom will only trap inexperienced rafters.

“Non-educated paddlers can drift right into it, and if the current is swift enough, get into a lot of trouble,” says Mark Taylor from the Alberta Whitewater Association. “It’s highly unsafe.

“It’s going to affect the paddlers who are not very good and can’t get off the river, and they’re going to be strung into a line—a steel cable strung across the river.”

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The Alberta Whitewater Association says a better solution would be to add better signage in the area, and have staff trained in river rescue in the area on busy summer days.

Still, fire officials maintain the boom is effective.

“That will show people to go to the portage area, get out, have a look at Harvie Passage, and make an informed decision as to whether they’re properly equipped and confident enough to go through,” explains Ken Uzeloc, deputy chief of the Calgary Fire Department. “I was on the aquatics team for 10 years, and I don’t remember ever having to pull anyone off the boom that was there before.”

If approved, the new boom will cost $200,000 and the fire department hopes to have it in place by June.

WATCH: Kayakers take a trip down the Harvie Passage