ENGINEERING NEWS RECORD: Montgomery, Ala., Whitewater Project Builds More than Rapids

Southeast Construction News

By Derek Lacey

A $75-million whitewater park on course for completion this summer in Montgomery, Ala., is founded not on a river bed but on two winding cast-concrete channels seated on land, with an artificial 22 ft drop in elevation. The channels will receive 12-million gallons of filtered water and give pro kayakers a place to practice on an Olympic-level whitewater course and beginners a place to learn and have fun.

Read full article at Engineering News Record here.

Poudre River Whitewater Park Recognized with ASLA Award

Poudre River Whitewater Park, Fort Collins, Colo.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has recognized the Poudre River Whitewater Park and the City of Fort Collins, Colo. with its Merit Award in Professional Design in the design over $500k category.

S2O Design & Engineering was proud to be part of this dynamic team, providing design, planning, permitting, and construction services to the $12 million project. S20 Design was chosen because of its expertise with whitewater park development and familiarity with the market.

“We are very proud to have been a part of this paradigm changing whitewater park that includes the whitewater elements, a city park, and connections to the greenway that allow for walking and biking connections throughout the city,” said Scott Shipley, S2O Design’s founder and president.

The Poudre River Whitewater Park was recognized for directly addressing environmental, economic, and social needs.

The popular river park features two in-river whitewater play waves that attract kayakers, paddleboarders, and tubers. The upper feature is designed for beginners while the lower feature is for more advanced paddlers. A pedestrian bridge over the river provides a critical link to the regional trail system, providing park access for pedestrians and cyclists from across the community, and a prime vantage point for watching river enthusiasts working the waves in the river below.

Removal of a large diversion structure on the river was central to restoring the river morphology, enabling the river to function as a river as opposed to a small reservoir. Fish passage channels integrated into the whitewater features enable small native fish to move freely up and down the river. The park includes extensive native restoration of the riverbanks, including over 3,000 willow whips and other riparian and native species.

The park creates new economic activity in this industrialized area. In addition to a boost for local businesses from thousands of park users, new development emerged nearby almost immediately following completion of the park.

See more information about the award at

#riverrestoration #whitewaterpark #designaward #civilengineering #hydrology #paddlesports #kayak


CIVIL ENGINEERING: Houston Facility will Enable Critical Water Rescue Training


by Jay Landers

S2O Design & Engineering was part of a feature article about the Regional Response Operations Center now under construction in Houston, Texas. S2O Design is leading the design and construction of this a state-of-the-art swift-water and urban-water rescue training facility.

Read the full article here.




PRESS RELEASE: S2O Design and Engineering Leading Design and Construction of the Houston Community College Regional Response Operation Center

State-of-the-art facility will offer flood, swift-water, low-head dam training and more for region’s first responders.



Extreme flooding is the second deadliest of all weather-related hazards in the United States. In recent years few places have seen this more than the Gulf Coast from south Texas to Florida, which has experienced three 500-year flood events since 2015, each more devastating than the last. To address this trend, Houston Community College (HCC) is working with S2O Design and Engineering, the nation’s leading river engineering firm specializing in pumped whitewater facilities, to create the Regional Response Operation Center (RROC), the world’s most advanced urban flood simulator solely dedicated to training fire, law enforcement, and EMS responders on the technical skills necessary to perform life-saving water rescues.

Located near HCC’s campus in northeast Houston, the $25 million, 75,000-square-foot facility will feature a large swift-water channel, 25-acre dive and powerboat and flatwater training pond, and an urban flood simulator to allow rescue personnel to train in flooded streets and buildings. Massive pumps will move a high volume of water into the “streets and buildings,” simulating a flood event in a controlled environment in order to maintain participants’ safety. It will have the capacity to train 3,000 – 4,000 first responders per year.

“More often we apply our skillset crafting whitewater-based recreation facilities, but designing projects like this to train first responders is incredibly rewarding,” says Scott Shipley, founder of Lyons, Colo.-based S2O Design and Engineering. “Regional emergency response teams will no longer depend on finding a creek or river with proper conditions for this vital training.”


S2O Design is providing overall project design and construction oversight, bringing highly specialized technical expertise with hydraulic engineering, site design, and construction. S2O Design’s team has designed and built some of the most advanced recirculating whitewater venues in the world, including the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC; Riversports Rapids in Oklahoma City; the Lee Valley Whitewater Center in London, home of the 2012 Olympics; and the forthcoming Montgomery Whitewater project in Montgomery, AL.

Design of the Regional Response Operation Center is loosely based on the S2O-designed New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, NY. Operated by the New York State Division of Homeland Security, the project is the only other mock urban flood training center in the country.

Dallas-based Huitt-Zollars, Inc. is the prime consultant of the project and architect of the training building. The project is in the final design and value engineering phase. Groundbreaking is projected for spring 2023.

About S2O Design & Engineering
Known for “reinventing whitewater,” Lyons, Colo.-based S2O Design and Engineering specializes in innovative river engineering, restoration, and community-focused whitewater park design. Our team of expert boater-engineers has planned, designed, and created some of the best in-stream whitewater parks as well as the largest and most dynamic recirculating whitewater parks in the world. S2O Design is led by Scott Shipley, a three-time Olympian and three-time World Cup Kayak Champion. For more information, visit


PRESS RELEASE: Catawba River to See Whitewater and Recreation for First Time in a Century

Dam Modification Spawning New Whitewater Park on the Catawba River

S2O Design & Engineering heads Great Falls-Dearborn Diversion Bypass Project, design solution will open the Catawba’s Long Bypass Reach for boating for the first time in over 100 years.

In Chester County, S.C. near the North and South Carolina border—an hour’s drive south of the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC—an engineering project is taking shape that will similarly attract paddlers and river enthusiasts throughout the region.

More than 100 years ago, the Great Falls-Dearborn Diversion Dam was built on the Catawba River for a hydroelectric plant, which created the Great Falls Dearborn Reservoir but also de-watered the 2.25-mile Long Bypass Reach below the dam. As part of the recent Catawba River Agreement and FERC re-licensing of the Catawba River for hydropower, a multi-million-dollar effort was launched to return water to the river for new recreational opportunities and to restore aquatic life and lowland habitat downstream of the dam.

S2O Design & Engineering, the world’s premier river engineering and whitewater design company, was tapped to devise a solution to allow flows through the diversion dam in a controlled manner and to provide safe bypass for paddlers who wish to traverse past the Diversion Dam into the beautiful corridor of class II-III whitewater. With construction past the half-way point, both water and boaters will soon be flowing down the Long Reach of the Catawba for the first time since 1907, bringing life and voice back to the rolling granite waves that are the historic “Great Falls” of South Carolina.

“This was an innovative approach to a complex challenge, and our team, including the project Owner and HDR Engineering, has done an outstanding job of navigating the engineering, construction, environmental, and regulatory variables with this project,” said Scott Shipley, S2O Design president and former kayak Olympian. “The results will bring a positive impact to the health and vitality of the river and create exciting recreation opportunities for paddlers across the region.”

Catawba IllustrationS2O Design’s solution to accomplish the multiple objectives features the creation of two release points or notches in the dam for recreational release flows and boaters to navigate into the Long Bypass Reach — a Main Channel that will convey water continuously into the reach, and a Recreation Bypass Channel that will provide a safe route for boaters during recreational releases.

The 400’ long Main Channel will take most of the flow down the eight feet of drop from the reservoir to the bottom pool, providing continuous connectivity between the reservoir and the river. To accommodate these flows, the design incorporates three innovative multi-stage drop structures that help control flows through the channel at various levels without creating dangerous recirculating hydraulics common in lowhead dams.

To provide the safest possible passage to the Long Bypass Reach at higher flows, S2O Design created the Recreation Bypass Channel that will have much less drop over a longer distance. This 1,075’ long passage features nine drop structures to control the rate and intensity of flows in the channel, a recovery pool and island with gradually sloped sides, and portage trails for boaters to exit the channel if needed. S2O Design also devised innovative applications in the Bypass Channel to prevent fish from being trapped at lower flows.

In creating this solution, S2O Design engineers and hydrologists completed conceptual designs, 1D and 2D computer modeling, construction documents, and construction visualization renderings. Working with engineers at the Czech Technical University in Prague, S2O Design also created a 1:20 scale physical model of both channels to study a range of flow conditions, and fine tune and validate that the design will meet the project’s stringent design and performance parameters.

S2O Design also commends American Whitewater, who represented paddling interests across the basin during the FERC relicensing process and was responsible for spearheading the effort to open up this reach of the Catawba River to boating. These and other enhancements are part of ongoing efforts by the local utility to further open local lakes and rivers to recreational use.

Construction on the Great Falls-Dearborn Diversion Bypass began in the spring of 2021 and is expected to be completed by fall 2022.

About S2O Design & Engineering

S2O Design is an engineering firm specializing in innovative river engineering, restoration, and community-focused whitewater park design. Our team of expert boater-engineers has planned, conceived, designed, and created some of the best in-stream whitewater parks as well as largest and most dynamic recirculating whitewater parks in the world. S2O Design is led by engineer, Olympian, and three-time World Cup Kayak Champion and Freestyle Kayak Champion Scott Shipley. For more information, visit


John Gregory’s ICF Podcast: ‘Scott Shipley on Slalom Course Design”

International Canoe Federation (ICF) podcast host John Gregory chats with S2O Design founder Scott Shipley about whitewater course design, RapidBlocks, and the way in which canoe slalom and paddlesport park venues have evolved.

Listen here – – or wherever you get your podcasts!

PRESS RELEASE: S2O Design and Engineering Redesigns Iconic Competition Venue in Bratislava, Slovakia

Famed Cunovo Water Sports Centre Completes Renovation with a Nod to the Future



Originally built in 1996 on an island in the Danube, the Cunovo Water Sports Centre in Bratislava, Slovakia hosted its first World Cup kayak event in 1997 and its most recent in 2013. To continue progressing with this growing sport, the Slovakian Federation tapped S2O Design and Engineering to lead a major renovation of the iconic dual-channel venue. S2O Design’s new channel configuration and incorporation of the RapidBlocs™ system gives Cunovo a better experience for recreation-level users, and adds a cache of features for advanced paddlers to play, train, and race at the highest levels.

“We love working on projects like this, but this one was a little more personal for me,” said S2O Design’s founder and president Scott Shipley, the three-time Olympian and World Cup slalom champion who also medaled for the U.S. at Cunovo in 1999. “We were fortunate to work closely with the Federation and with coaches who have been using the course for 20 years. That much insight and experience go a long way toward building a world-class whitewater competition venue that can evolve along with the sport.”

S2O Design’s work on the iconic venue included reconfiguring the channel layout and updating the obstacle structures. The unique parallel courses, which allow paddlers to change from one course to the other midway, had become outdated, and unfavorable conditions on the left channel made it largely unusable for recreational paddlers and not conducive for competitions.

S2O Design redesigned the left channel to integrate their patented RapidBlocs™ system, highly customizable three-dimensional obstacles that form the course’s waves, holes, drops, and eddies. The flexibility of the new system allows the operators to customize the configuration with the desired amount, type, and shape of features for any level paddler. The RapidBlocs system was also used for the newly built venue that hosted the 2021 Olympic Games.

Cunovo’s new competition channel configuration included repositioning the starting gate, adding a spectator-friendly features in front of the grandstand, and reconfiguring the bottom features on the racecourse.

The result of the renovation is better, more consistent whitewater throughout the channel, providing favorable conditions for both guided commercial operations as well as technical and endurance training and beginner to Olympic-level racing. The new configuration also makes Cunovo Whitewater Water Sports Centre an ideal venue for spectating and televised events.

“The reconstruction of the water slalom complex in Čunovo is an important milestone in the development of water sports in the Slovak Republic,” said Matus Stulajter, project manager at the Slovak Canoeing Federation. “In collaboration with Scott Shipley and the S2O Design team, we have managed to create a unique channel with elements that are nowhere else in the world. I believe that this unique project will contribute to the sustainable development of sports infrastructure in Slovakia.”

Cunovo Whitewater Park will host the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships Sept 22-26. The new course should help Slovakia return to a once-dominant position in whitewater slalom when it was part of the Czech Republic.

The Bratislava course is just one of many high-profile whitewater courses the S20 Design team is credited with designing, including the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C., RiverSports Whitewater Park in Oklahoma City, and the Lee Valley White Water Centre in London, site of the 2012 Olympics. S2O Design is currently leading the design and development of Montgomery Whitewater, the new $50 million recirculating whitewater center in Montgomery, Ala.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER: Wave of enthusiasm builds as $50 million whitewater park breaks ground in Montgomery

from Montgomery Advertiser
June 10, 2021

How do you turn a storm into a chamber of commerce day? Add $50 million worth of water.

Government officials, military leaders, business executives and representatives of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians exchanged smiles and hugs in a downpour Thursday as they cheered the official start of construction on a $50 million, government-backed whitewater park and outdoor center here. It’s a project that originally was announced two years ago as a complex public-private partnership, led by Montgomery County, and the expected opening was delayed as those deals shifted during the pandemic.

Those meeting in the rain Thursday praised a tenacity and spirit of collaboration in reaching the groundbreaking event. “We are Republicans and Democrats with the same vision,” Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean said. “… They care about making Montgomery… a whole better place to live in.”

The park expects to open in summer 2023 on a 120-acre site between Maxwell Air Force Base and Interstate 65. A pump-powered channel will carry kayakers along a man-made course that winds around a restaurant, shops, an amphitheater and many other amenities. Other planned attractions include a water slide zip line tower visible from the interstate, a biking trail and even a beach area with cabanas.

The city of Montgomery is donating land to the project and has worked to reach an arrangement on a new facility for the Salvation Army, which still has a shelter on the site. Mayor Steven Reed said the Salvation Army “has the final details of the contract now” and that he expects that deal to close soon. That site would not be involved in phase one of construction.

Alabama Power Vice President Leslie Sanders said the property started with 58 different land owners, and the city was able to negotiate all of those deals successfully. “There is no project of this magnitude that does not have challenges every day,” Sanders said. “… A lot of people still think it’s a whitewater amusement park. It takes explaining, and it takes perseverance.”

Boat paddles to be used for shovels during the groundbreaking ceremony for the whitewater park and outdoor fun center in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday June 10, 2021.

The construction work ahead is just as daunting, as is the aggressive two-year timeline.

Phase one alone includes a 310,000-square-foot channel for the whitewater course, a system to filter and manage 18 million gallons of water a year, 40,000 square feet of restaurants, retail and other buildings, and more. Senior project manager Jeffrey Gustin of Southern Whitewater Development Group said the first seven to eight months will be spent on site work and prep.

Former Olympian Scott Shipley designed the U.S. National Whitewater Center in North Carolina as well as the 2012 Olympic venue. Shipley has spent the past few months working on a scale test model of the Montgomery facility in the Czech Republic. He said it required him to get special permission from the Czech government to enter the country during the pandemic.

“This will be the most modern whitewater park in the world when it opens in 2023,” Shipley said. “We want to be able to bring international competitors here and have that Olympic standard course, but we also want to make the hurdle to getting your church groups, and your school groups, and your family and friends out on that whitewater much lower.”

Scott Shipley, President S2o Design and Engineering, speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the whitewater park and outdoor fun center in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday June 10, 2021.

Shipley said they’ll offer two channels — one Olympic standard and one for “families to explore whitewater for the first time.”

A local board called the Montgomery County Community Cooperative District was formed to oversee construction, and in April it named JESCO Inc. the general contractor for the project. JESCO also was involved in the construction of Riverwalk Stadium, the Montgomery Regional Airport and several other showpiece projects across central Alabama.

Duke Partnering with SC to Develop Massive New Whitewater Center for Charlotte Region

The Charlotte region is about to boast another major whitewater recreation center to compliment the US National Whitewater Center.

Duke Energy’s new multi-million dollar project, called the Great Falls-Dearborn Development, will completely revision Dearborn Island, including building a massive pedestrian bridge to the 650-acre island, install three canoe and kayak launches, restructuring water channels into class 2,3 and 4 whitewater rapids, and partnering with South Carolina to develop an entirely new state park.

Duke Energy will be working with S2O Design, designer of Charlotte’s U.S. National Whitewater Center, and HDR Engineering to build 2 new bypass channels, with the longest one being about 1 1/2 miles. The new channels will gradually dissipate the reservoirs released energy using switchbacks and a series of progressively challenging waves. Each bypass will use notches and gates to regulate the water flow.

“If you came out here 200 years ago when the river was down, it’d likely look exactly as it is today,” said Tim Huffman, Duke Energy’s senior project manager charged with implementing the FERC agreement. “The reservoir now has very limited access. When the elements of the Catawba River agreement are put in place, not only will access be improved, the two dried out reaches will have their flows restored for recreational access as well as biological and habitat enhancement.”

Work is currently underway at the Nitrolee Access Area and construction on the short and long bypass is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2021. The completed facilities are planned to be finished within the next two years.


THE MUNICIPAL: Poudre River Project Strikes the Right Balance

The City of Fort Collins, Colo., and its community members had a dream: the revitalization of the Cache la Poudre River corridor. With the river passing through the city’s downtown, it was an invaluable asset that simply needed rediscovering.

View full article here: The Municipal_Jan_21


PRESS RELEASE: S2O Design Leads Dynamic River Restoration Effort for The River Mile, Denver’s Largest Development

South Platte River restoration project will reconnect the city to its iconic urban waterway, improving natural habitat, flood control, and recreation access


Downtown Denver, Colo.’s largest mixed-used development, The River Mile, has tapped S2O Design and Engineering to lead a signature component of this complex, dynamic restoration of the heralded South Platte River. Spearheaded by developer Revesco Properties, this one-of-a-kind neighborhood — comprising 62 acres and ultimately up to 15 million square feet of commercial and residential property — will reconnect the city to its iconic urban waterway, improving riparian and aquatic habitat, flood control, and recreation access.

“With $80 million in federal matching funds, river restoration is the project’s fundamental purpose, and it will be one of the most significant river restorations ever undertaken by a private enterprise, anywhere,” says Gregory V. Murphy, president of Calibre Engineering, The River Mile’s civil engineer. “S2O is helping us develop a design solution that’s in alignment with all the stakeholders’ interests.”

Since 1860, the South Platte River has been highly impacted by urban development. In a major commitment by the developer, in partnership with the City of Denver, the Greenway Foundation, and other environmental experts, the project’s goal is to return the river to a more natural state ecologically and physically. The effort will incorporate sustainability, aquatic and riparian habitat enhancements, and flood control along a more than 1-mile-long stretch of this valuable waterway. The project will also improve recreational access via a trail system leading to new fishing and paddling features. The restoration will add 27 acres of riverside parks and open spaces while energizing this new downtown neighborhood.

A leader in river restoration and development, S20 Design brings a unique expertise in integrating recreation into river restoration efforts. Led by engineer and three-time Olympian Scott Shipley, S2O Design has designed and engineered a variety of highly successful in-stream recreation projects and has served as lead designer of some of the world’s most high-profile whitewater recreation and competition venues.

“We are honored to work with such a talented team in restoring and revitalizing this vital natural resource for Denver,” says Shipley. “We are working with some of the early visionaries in urban floodway restoration including the Greenway Foundation and the Mile-High Flood District. This project will set a new standard in how to approach and realize environmental and flood enhancements while also prioritizing human interaction with the river for recreation and relaxation.”

Restoration efforts will improve this section of the river’s in-stream habitat and its riparian and wetland corridor, with fish benefitting from a fully connected habitat throughout the reach and the removal of thousands of tons of silt and sand. The team will replace the existing floodway configuration with a more natural restoration that will create a narrower, deeper low-flow channel. It will also aid in moving sediment better, which helps prevent flooding, but will also provide cooler water for fish habitat and the opportunity for a multi-stage channel with a vibrant riparian zone.

“S2O Design brings the technical expertise with hydraulic modeling, stream restoration, and recreation design needed to make this project a success,” says Heather Houston, President and Senior Ecologist at Birch Ecology. “They have done a great job of listening and facilitating conversations to realize a successful outcome.”

In the past two years, S20 Design has completed in-channel river parks on the Poudre River in Fort Collins, Colo.; the Arkansas River in Canon City, Colo.; the Eagle River in Eagle, Colo.; and the Boise Whitewater Park in Boise, Idaho.