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Drought repercussion: Lake Lanier Islands might limit swimming in the lake

POSTED: February 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.
HARRIS BLACKWOOD /The Times

Lake Lanier Islands may have to suspend swimming in the lake if water levels don't increase significantly. The water rides at the beach and water park should open as scheduled in May.

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Gov. Sonny Perdue’s announcement that the state would allow limited filling of outdoor swimming pools was good news for Grier Todd.

Todd, chief operating officer of Lake Lanier Islands, was concerned about possible repercussions for the resort’s beach and water park.

"We needed some assurance that we would be able to operate," Todd said, adding that there may be some adjustments in operating schedules for the water park.

Also, the time is drawing near to hire 200 to 300 seasonal workers, mostly students, to operate the water park.

He also said he plans to meet with the city of Gainesville to discuss the park’s seasonal water use.

Todd said the park uses about 20,000 gallons of water per day. Most of the water is filtered, treated and recycled. Only during the back washing of the system is new water introduced.

The water leaving the system is treated in the park’s wastewater plant and returned to the lake.

Also being watched is the level of the lake. Currently, the water line is far beyond the beach, and Todd said the drop-off beyond the beach area may be too deep for swimmers. Without a significant increase in lake level, swimming in the lake may have to be suspended.

He said the attractions, like the wave pool and various water slides, tend to draw the bulk of the park’s visitors.

Todd’s remarks followed a meeting of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, where the board voted to use some of its reserve funds to initiate work on resort’s road system.

The board abandoned a plan to issue bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements and on Thursday issued a request for proposals for a $6.6 million bank loan.

At the same time, the board is seeking a loan from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to pay for a new wastewater treatment plan.

"I think this is the right way to go," said Lonice Barrett, chairman of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority board.

Also on Thursday, Todd told the authority that annual revenues for Lake Lanier Islands Management Co., the private firm that holds the lease on the 1,100-acre resort, were down in 2007 because of construction projects. One of the resort’s two golf courses was closed for the year. In addition, the resort continued to operate with only one hotel following the closing of PineIsle resort, which is due to be torn down this year.

The primary resort, Emerald Pointe, is undergoing a major renovation and expansion. It remains open during the process, but a grand reopening of the islands is planned for May.

Todd is forecasting 2008 revenues of $29.2 million, a $6 million increase over 2007.



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