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Reduced releases from Lanier likely to end next week

POSTED: April 24, 2013 11:02 a.m.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources doesn’t plan to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, to extend a Tuesday deadline on reduced water releases from Lake Lanier.

DNR spokesman Kevin Chambers said the reason is that the lake is full, thanks to heavy rains this year.

Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association, said she “wasn’t overjoyed” by the news, but she also wasn’t surprised.

“The good news is that the extended drought forecast for the Southeast region is much better this year than what we saw this time last year, so hopefully we will see higher lake levels as we move into summer and fall,” she said.

“This puts the pressure back on all of us to once again step up our conservation efforts.”

In October, the DNR had asked the corps to reduce water quality releases from Lake Lanier at Buford Dam from 750 cubic feet per second to 650 cfs to conserve as much storage as possible in Lake Lanier.

Initially, the corps balked at the request, increasing releases in November and December as the lower lakes in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin “began to run out of storage.”

But it promised to re-evaluate the situation monthly. In December, the corps granted the DNR’s request.

“Given the current basin conditions and hydrologic forecasts, the requested flow reduction ... is a prudent action to conserve system storage,” corps spokesman E. Patrick Robbins said at the time.

According to National Weather Service data, Gainesville had received 21.74 inches of rain this year as of Wednesday evening. The normal year-to-date rainfall amount through Wednesday was 18.46 inches.

That’s a 3.28-inch surplus, and more rain could be on the way.

Today and Friday are expected to be sunny and clear, but showers are predicted to move in Friday night and remain in the forecast, mixed with thunderstorms, through Tuesday.

Most officials agree rain has had a large impact on Lake Lanier. During last year’s drought, the lake drained to 1,056.33 feet on Dec. 18, or nearly 14 feet below the winter full pool of 1,070 feet.

As of Wednesday evening, Lake Lanier was at 1,071.25 feet above sea level, or near 1« feet above winter full pool. The summer full pool of 1,071 feet takes effect Wednesday and ends Nov. 30.

“We look like we’re in great shape,” Gov. Nathan Deal told The Times on Tuesday, after he signed new boating laws at Holiday Marina in Buford.

“We can just hope the Corps of Engineers will leave it just as high as possible for the rest of the year.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who has created a congressional caucus to focus on local and national water issues, including lake levels, said that “while I am thrilled to hear (the lake’s) levels are back up, recent history has shown this trend won’t last forever.

“As a resident of Hall County, I always want to see Lake Lanier at full pool, and keeping it there is by far the best policy.”

He said he understands the corps “has specific actions it must carry out under its current operating procedure, but those operations need to be updated to reflect the current uses of the basin.

“My hope is through my Corps of Engineers Reform Caucus, we can work together to find ways to update these procedures and benefit all parties involved.”


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