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1071 Coalition: Economics is key to boost Lake Lanier in war of public relations
Grier Todd, chief operating officer of Islands Management Co. LLC, places informational packets about Coalition 1071 on tables inside the banquet hall Monday at First Baptist Church on Green Street. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The 1071 Coalition, a Lake Lanier advocacy group formed last year, is taking its message to the public.

Grier Todd, the chief operating officer of Lake Lanier Islands resort, is chairman of the group. During an address Monday to members of the Rotary Club of Gainesville, Todd conceded that seafood interests in the Florida panhandle have done a better job of getting their message to the public, and his fledgling group is playing catch-up.

"We’ve got to get the message out on the impact that lake levels are having on North Georgia," Todd said. "We also have to inform the public of the urgency of being involved in the update of the operation manual of the river system."

Todd said the initial discussion of the coalition began in early 2008, after Lake Lanier reached a record low of 1,050.79 on Dec. 26, 2007.

"There have been a lot of groups out there fighting the fight for a number of years," Todd said. "When we looked around, there wasn’t a broad-based coalition that included government, businesses and individuals coming together from all the communities north of Buford Dam."

Kit Dunlap, chairwoman of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District and a member of the 1071 board, said a top priority is gauging the lake’s value to the region.

"If we want to keep the lake at a reasonable level, we need to conduct the economic impact study," said Dunlap, who is also president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

She said while the study will be valuable in making a case for the lake with federal regulators, it will also be a tool for use in economic development.

"We’re currently using a smaller study that was done in 2001 and that’s the only thing we have," she said. Previous estimates placed the annual visitation to Lake Lanier around 7 million and the lake’s estimated annual impact at $1 billion.

The study, with an estimated price tag of $200,000, is currently being discussed with researchers from Georgia State University.

The coalition has secured fundraising commitments of $150,000 toward a three-year goal of $700,000.

Todd predicted the coalition would be in business for about four years, through the process of the updating of federal operation manuals and to see the lake returned to normal seasonal levels.

He said the group has no interest in becoming a party in any of the pending litigation over the lake, however, he believes the data from the study would be helpful to attorneys who will be arguing the state’s case in federal court.

The group derived its name, 1071, from the full pool level of Lake Lanier, 1,071 feet above mean sea level.