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Higher level on Lanier pleases residents

POSTED: March 14, 2013 12:25 a.m.

Three months ago, lake watchers were wringing their hands over the ever-dropping water level at Lake Lanier.

The lake had dropped to 1,056.33 feet above sea level on Dec. 18, nearly 14 feet below the winter full pool of 1,070 feet and just 6 feet above the historic low of 1,050.79 feet on Dec. 26, 2007.

What a difference three months makes.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Lanier stood at 1,068.03 feet, the highest level since June 19, 2011.

“In a word: Hooray,” said Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association.

There is “some inconvenience moving docks out, but that is an inconvenience most people are happy to have,” she added. “We are looking forward to a terrific summer season on the lake.”

The lake has risen nearly a foot per week since Dec. 18, helped by bouts of heavy rain throughout the winter.

Nearly 1 1/2 inches of rain were recorded at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville on Monday and Tuesday, and a slight chance for showers is in this weekend’s weather forecast.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which had projected Lanier to reach 1,068 by the end of March, last week suspended drought operations in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin, which includes Lake Lanier.

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.

Robbins said Wednesday, “At this time, we would hold (Lanier) at 1,070 (feet).”

Summer full pool of 1,071 feet takes effect in May.

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 Lanier.

“We’ve been very, very fortunate this year, as well as the whole state (has been fortunate), because we feed the whole state,” said Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Dunlap also serves on the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District’s Governing Board.

“We look really good going into the spring and summer,” she said. “But the (water) situation won’t ever go away, and we still have (water-sharing) issues to solve with Alabama and Florida.”

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