The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to reduce water releases, starting today and continuing through at least April 30, from Lake Lanier at Buford Dam.
“After evaluating the data we determined that the decreased flows would not have a negative effect on the environmental quality of the river and would allow some minimal increase in storage for the system headwaters,” said E. Patrick Robbins, spokesman for the corps’ Mobile District.
“This increased storage, while not significant at this time, could prove very beneficial to the system if weather patterns persist.”
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources requested on Oct. 15 that the corps reduce releases from 750 cubic feet per second to 650 cfs in order to conserve as much storage as possible in Lake Lanier.
Since that time, “conditions in the system did not permit reduced flows but (the corps) agreed to re-evaluate the request monthly,” states a corps press release issued Friday.
Instead, releases were increased from Lake Lanier as the lower lakes in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin began to run out of storage.
“Conditions in the middle and lower basin reservoirs over the past several weeks have improved slightly,” the corps states.
Now, given “current basin conditions and hydrologic forecasts,” the requested flow reduction from 750 cfs to 650 cfs “is a prudent action to conserve system storage.”
The normal target flow of 750 cfs at Peachtree Creek “is to meet minimum water quality standards in the river,” Robbins said. “The minimum flow requirement, established by Georgia DNR, is in addition to flows required for water supply from the river.”
The DNR’s request also included an adaptive management plan to address any changes that might occur to the environment due to the decreased flows.
“In order to avoid confusion, it’s important to note that a 100 cfs decrease will be invisible to the general public seeing releases from Buford Dam,” Robbins said.
This request, officials said, is in line with similar ones from the DNR during previous droughts and ones the Mobile District has approved on the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa rivers system when facing similar drought situations.
Judson H. Turner, director of the DNR’s Georgia Environmental Protection Division, said the agency is pleased by the corps’ action.
“I also want to commend all Georgians for their water conservation efforts during this drought and urge them to continue the good stewardship,” he said.
The Hall County area is in moderate drought, although the latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows worsening conditions in North Georgia, including portions of Dawson and Lumpkin counties in extreme drought.
The National Weather Service in Peachtree City reported that the rain gauge at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville recorded 1.33 inches of rain Thursday.
“Over the next week, we will likely see another system move though the basin bringing up to 1 additional inch of rain to the northern ACF basin,” according to the corps’ latest biweekly drought report, issued this week.
“Forecasts indicate another system behind that moving through the basin on (Wednesday or Thursday), bringing an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain to the basin.”
Lake Lanier stood at 1,056.68 feet above sea level Friday afternoon, about 13 to 14 feet below the winter full pool of 1,070 feet. Winter full pool began Dec. 1 and runs through April 30.