The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reduced the amount of water it releases from Lake Lanier.
The reduction, which took effect Friday, is not as much as Georgia requested, but the move could keep as much as 64.6 million gallons of water a day in the lake. That’s about as much as Gwinnett County withdraws from the lake during the winter.
The corps took the same action during the last drought in 2001 and 2002 to preserve water in the lake.
Carol Couch, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, asked the corps to reduce the discharge from 750 to 550 cubic feet per second through the end of April. Her Feb. 11 letter cites the near full condition of West Point Lake and Lake Walter F. George as a part of the rationale for making the change. The two lakes are on the lower Chattahoochee, south of Atlanta.
In the end, the corps agreed to reduce the flow to 650 cubic feet per second.
"We appreciate the careful evaluation made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and concurrence that the request to permit lower flows in the Chattahoochee River at Peachtree Creek is consistent with environmental quality," Couch said in a statement.
The corps has released only enough water from Lake Lanier to meet metro Atlanta’s water needs and the state’s minimum required flow on most days since December. Lisa Coghlan, a spokeswoman for the corps in Mobile, Ala., said the reduction could help Lanier, which reached a record low in December and is now 15 feet below full pool.
"This may allow the capture of an additional amount of inflows as we near the end of the winter-spring rain season and hopefully put Lanier in a somewhat better position as we enter the forecasted dry summer months," Coghlan said.
She made it clear that the reduction will not extend beyond April 30.
Jackie Joseph, president of the Lake Lanier Association, said that she was glad to hear the corps was taking less water from the lake.
"Any amount helps," Joseph said. "Any move in the right direction is a positive move."
She said the lake has depended on weather events, such as the heavy rainfall from hurricanes and tropical storms to refill after down years.
The only major concern right now is meeting the water needs in the Atlanta area.
The lakes on the Chattahoochee that are south of Atlanta are at or slightly above full pool, according to the latest readings from the corps.
West Point Lake, which has a summer full pool of 635 feet above mean sea level, is currently at 632.36, which is two feet above the average for this time of year. The lake forecast calls for it to increase slightly over the next four weeks.
To the south, Lake Walter F. George is at 189.37 feet above mean sea level. The normal summer full pool is 190 feet. It, too is predicted to rise slightly in the next month.
The flow at Woodruff Dam, which is at the beginning of the Apalachicola River, was 25,586 cubic feet per second on Thursday.
Last fall, during the height of the drought, the corps struggled to maintain a flow of 4,750 cubic feet per second.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.