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Wet spring could drench drought issue

POSTED: May 7, 2009 12:06 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

More rainfall than normal has caused Sardis Creek, shown here on Wednesday afternoon, to flow stronger and has caused lake levels to rise.

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As litigation over Lake Lanier heads to court, drought, the issue that has exacerbated the tri-state water wars, may be going away.

At midnight, the lake had reached a level of 1064.59 feet, reaching territory not seen since July 2007.

The lake is still shy of its summer full pool of 1,071 feet above mean sea level. The last time it was that high was Sept. 6, 2005.

Judge Paul A. Magnuson, the Minnesota federal judge assigned to hear the dispute over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin, noted the drought conditions when he met with lawyers last July.

"When this thing (the lawsuit) is all over and done, I’m going to make some decisions that are going to injure some people very badly and are going to help some people a little bit," Magnuson said in court. "But I’m not going to make it rain and I’m not going to increase any water. And that’s got to get done. We’ve got — we’ve just got too many demands out there. And there’s nothing illegitimate about any of these. I just can’t emphasize that strong enough.

"People have got to have a right to their electricity, people have got to have a right to the natural resources, people have got to have — have rights to have stuff, and people are going to drink water, you know."

While more rainfall does not solve the legal problem, it tends to settle down the war of words, which reached a fever pitch in 2007 and brought intervention from the Bush White House.

However, the talks between governors of Georgia, Florida and Alabama broke down in March 2008 and it was back to the courtroom.

State Climatologist David Stooksbury said earlier this week that the Lake Lanier basin is now in a mild drought condition and could emerge from any reference to drought because of the current rains.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows only a small portion of Northeast Georgia, primarily in the Savannah River basin, in mild drought condition. A 12-week review of the monitor showed portions of Northeast Georgia in extreme drought, which has now been eliminated because of above average rainfall.

Gainesville received eight-tenths of an inch of rain between 1 a.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service monitoring station at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport. The rain was expected to taper off through the day today. The National Weather forecast shows a least a chance of rain — ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent — every day through May 13. The best chances for rain look to be Friday and Sunday at this point.

Gainesville received 4.95 inches of rainfall in April — 0.95 inches above the 30-year average of 4.06 inches.

Average May rainfall in Gainesville is 4.33 inches, according to the National Weather Service.



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