According to Trent Baker, president of the nonprofit Brennan's Wave Inc.-the organization set up to promote, fundraise and finance the project-construction crews are set to begin work on the whitewater feature in the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula any day now.
The project will replace a crumbling irrigation weir with a permanent rock and concrete structure that will create two standing whitewater waves for kayakers, canoeists and rafters to practice on and play around in, in addition to diverting water toward an adjacent Orchard Homes irrigation ditch.
It's been an uphill battle to get state and local officials to sign off on the project, but Baker says that as of this week, all the necessary permits have been secured, and construction will begin soon.
"Trucks may start appearing on Thursday [Jan. 12]," Baker says. "Rock trucks and other equipment will access the site via 4th Street by the Missoulian [offices] and the Kim Williams Trail. Construction is expected to take about three weeks or so."
From the sounds of it, the construction itself will make for an interesting spectator sport. According to Baker, workers for Envirocon, the environmental remediation firm contracted to do the work, will use inflatable rubber bladders to divert the Clark Fork's waters away from the construction site.
"It should be pretty interesting to watch," he says.
Once completed, the new whitewater features will serve multiple purposes and users.
"It will improve safety for the people who are floating through," explains Baker. "Instead of sharp concrete and rebar there will be a feature that is smooth and safe and easier to navigate."
Baker says the project will also set an example for how similar diversion projects may be developed in the future.
"If someone is going to put a structure in the river, let's make it a multiple-use structure," says Baker.
Recreation is increasingly important on rivers and that's having impacts on local economies, says Baker.
"Why are we letting people put things in the rivers that are bad for recreation when you can put something in that everyone can use and enjoy? This is a great example of how to do that."