The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dredged the waters at Lula Park's boat ramp and now is readying to haul away some 3,000 tons of silt.
The corps had hoped the hauling would start this week, but wet weather has slowed efforts. The work should be completed in two to three weeks, Chief Ranger Craig Sowers said Wednesday.
As for when the corps reopens the boat ramp, that likely will take longer.
While low levels helped in the dredging effort, the corps needs the channel to refill about 5 feet for the ramp to reopen, Sowers said.
Winter rains, such as the inch that fell Tuesday at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville, will help in that cause and otherwise help reverse what had been a downward trend for Lake Lanier's water level.
The lake was standing at 1,060.64 feet above sea level Wednesday afternoon, or less that 10 feet below the winter full pool of 1,070 feet. The lake had fallen to 1,057.91 feet on Nov. 14.
The corps began noticing a buildup of silt at the end of the Lula ramp about 10 years ago.
"During times of low water (over the ensuing years), we were not able to use the ramp," Sowers said.
As for causes of the buildup, "it is a natural event of all lake systems," Sowers said.
But also the problem could stem from "any type of land development or clearing, anything that would remove vegetation and expose soil," he added.
"Overall dredging in the Chattahoochee River has been occurring for 10 or 11 years, but we never specifically tried to tackle these boat ramps because of all the other material that was out in the main river channel," Sowers said.
The corps began dredging at Lula Park, which is off Ga. 52 north of Ga. 365, in November, as the lake sat at 1,058 feet, considered an ideal water level for the work as the silt is more exposed.
"On average, the channel (leading from the ramp) was dug about 4 feet down," Sowers said. "We gained 4 feet of functionality back."
Dennis Bergin, Lula city manager, said he was glad to see the work wrap up at the park, which is not in city limits but is close to the East Hall city.
"We have a lot of people in this area who use it, and I've just got to believe that the work they're doing now will only enhance (conditions)," he said.
The corps has a long-range plan to make similar improvements to a boat ramp at Lumpkin County Park on the Chestatee River.
But not anytime soon. Sowers said the steps to completing a dredging project involve resolving environmental issues, such as complying with the National Environmental Policy Act.
"It's part of our due diligence as environmental stewards," Sowers said, adding that the corps needs to focus on "keeping water quality sound and not hindering any threatened or endangered species."