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Corps suspends drought operations

Move won’t affect releases downstream from Lanier

POSTED: March 5, 2013 12:32 a.m.

Rainy conditions over the past month or so have moved the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend drought operations in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin, which includes Lake Lanier.

“Rainfall has been above normal for the past month throughout the (basin), which has led to increased inflows into the lakes and the river system,” according to the corps.

The move doesn’t affect releases at Peachtree Creek on the Chattahoochee River — those will remain at a reduced level until April 30 — but it removes a minimum flow of 5,000 cubic feet per second into the Apalachicola River to protect threatened and endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The minimum flow is now a function of basin inflow, composite conservation storage, time of year and ramping rate,” said E. Patrick Robbins, the corps’ Mobile District spokesman.

The corps had been in drought operations since May 1, 2012.

Last year, the corps granted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ request to reduce releases from 750 cfs to 650 cfs in order to conserve as much storage as possible in Lake Lanier.

The lake has been steadily rising over the past month because of large bouts of rainfall.

On Monday, it stood at 1,067.14 feet above sea level, or nearly 3 feet below the winter full pool of 1,070 feet.

That’s 1 foot higher than one week ago. The lake’s elevation had fallen to 1,056.33 feet on Dec. 19.

According to the corps, Lanier is forecast to reach 1,068 by the end of March.

Most of North Georgia is drought-free while drought conditions have been downgraded from extreme and exceptional to moderate and severe in other parts of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The worst conditions are in eastern and coastal Georgia.

“We expect, if there are no changes in weather patterns, to see a minimal decline in reservoir levels at West Point Lake and Lake Walter F. George over the next five weeks,” Robbins said.

“At this time, the long-range forecast for the ACF looks promising.” Robbins said. “The drought monitor shows the AFC basin returning to normal conditions this year.”

Rain is predicted for today in the Hall County area, with a slight chance for rain and snow tonight. Dry conditions are in the outlook for the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

Bill Murphey, state climatologist, said Georgia is in a “neutral” climate pattern, or between El Nino and La Nina, “and it looks like we’ll stay (that way) through the spring and into the summer.”

In a neutral pattern, “you normally get ... big swings in temperature and doses of heavier rainfall, then a break, where you go several days without rain,” Murphey said.


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