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Protest planned for Saturday morning at Buford dam

POSTED: October 30, 2007 5:05 a.m.

Patrick Callaghan could be dammed if he does, dammed if he doesn’t.

The Flowery Branch truck driver is organizing a protest of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ water release policies at the lower pool of Buford Dam on Saturday in what could be a daring, and potentially dangerous, stunt.

Callaghan is proposing that people fed up with the corps’ daily releases of some 3 billion gallons of water from Lake Lanier stay in the lower pool near the dam in their kayaks, rafts and other flotation devices after the horns sound, signaling an impending release. The protest is scheduled to convene at 8 a.m. Saturday, though when exactly the next release will occur after then is not yet known.

"I’m expecting a lot of people from the lake community to be there," said Callaghan, a 37-year-old father of four who has taken to using the e-mail address "dam_mad_dad." "In all honesty, I’m expecting some manner of chaos, if the amount of people who intend to show up show up."

Callaghan stresses it will be a peaceful protest.

"Our intention is to ignore the sirens, and give the Army Corps of Engineers a choice. But I’m realistic. I expect the two outcomes are being washed down the river or removed by force. I expect the latter."

Michael Lapina, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ chief park ranger for Lake Lanier, wouldn’t comment Thursday on whether any arrests would or could be made if protesters are floating in the lower pool and refuse to budge after the warning horns sound.

"We’re aware that an individual is calling for a gathering in the lower pool to discuss water releases," Lapina said. "Beyond that we don’t know what the situation is going to be."

Lapina said the corps’ biggest concern was for public safety, noting the presence of slippery rocks and cold, quick currents even when there isn’t a release.

"It very well could be a safety issue," Lapina said.

The schedule of releases varies from day to day according to the basin level. About three minutes prior to a release, a horn sounds for 30 seconds. It sounds again about 30 seconds prior to the first release. "Basically, people are supposed to exit the water at that time," Lapina said.

Each release is done in stages and takes about a 30 minutes.

Callaghan said he will be in a kayak, wearing a life preserver, as is required of all people in the lower pool. He cautions in his e-mails and his Web site, www.savelakelanier.com, that the protest is potentially dangerous, and "not for beginners."

Callaghan said while the word is out about his protest, he still isn’t sure what to expect come Saturday morning.

"Let’s face it, either it’s just a couple of crazy people in kayaks, or it’s Atlanta’s finest hour," Callaghan said.



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