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As Lake Lanier levels drop, other concerns rise

POSTED: October 23, 2016 5:30 p.m.
ERIN O. SMITH/The Times

Drought conditions reduced Lake Lanier's water level to 1,062.94 feet above sea level Sunday afternoon. All of Hall County other than a small portion in the southeast part of the county is considered to be in extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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With Lake Lanier 8 feet below full pool and falling, Val Perry has a message for Lake Lanier Association members: Move your dock.

“If they don’t do it now, they might be stranded,” said the Gainesville-based organization’s president. “We’re hearing we might have a normal winter, which would be OK, but we were supposed to have more rain than we’ve had so far, and we haven’t gotten any.”

Lake Lanier was at 1,062.94 feet above sea level Sunday afternoon, the lowest point in more than 3½ years. The summer full pool is 1,071 feet, and the winter full pool is 1,070 feet.

After a wet winter last year, spring was unusually dry. Rain mostly came in bursts during the summer, such as with thunderstorms. Hurricane Matthew, which devastated much of the East Coast, had little effect here.

Except for one small area in the southeast portion, Hall County is considered in in extreme drought, along with much of North Georgia, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

And now, 22 public boat ramps at Lake Lanier are closed due to low water.

The lake has about 100 islands. As water levels drop, more of those islands become exposed and temporary islands surface — a serious danger to boaters.

“The main thing we're watching is safety,” Perry said.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ navigation program manager, John Matlack, marks surfacing hazards with large pink buoys. So far, he says, he has 48 out. When the lake’s level hits 1,062 feet, he says he’ll likely put out another 16 or 17 more.

Lanier is still far from the historic low water level of 1,050.79 feet, which took place on Dec. 26, 2007.

One of the outcomes of that drought was the corps stopped issuing dock permits. Earlier this year, the corps announced no more new permits would be issued as the lake had reached its limit of 10,615 docks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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