The Lake Lanier Association is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to slow down as it drains the lake as part of its high water plan.
As Lake Lanier inches close to 1,074 feet above sea level after weeks of rain, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has opened the gates and is draining water 24 hours a day from Buford Dam into the lower Chattahoochee River basin.
At 1,074 feet, the lake is about 3 feet above its full summer pool.
“When the lake goes above that level, it impacts recreation facilities, private docks and marinas, as they are all designed for maximum operation at the summer pool level,” said Army Corps spokesman E. Patrick Robbins of the Mobile District on Thursday.
But now, the lake association wants the Army Corps to put the plug back in the drain.
“With the Chattahoochee River and its tributaries already swollen from recent rain, downstream areas are already inundated, including — in particular — the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, which is negatively affected by high water flows as recognized in Section 7-4 (3) of the Manual,” wrote LLA President Wilton Rooks and Executive Director Joanna Cloud in a Friday, June 1, letter to Army Corps Brig. Gen. Diana Holland.
The Army Corps has closed many public facilities because of high water, including boat ramps, beaches and parks:
- Old Federal Campground
- Van Pugh South
- Little River
- Thompson Bridge
- Bolding Mill
- Toto Creek
- Little Hall
- Keith Bridge
- Two Mile
- Van Pugh North
- Old Federal Day Use
- Duckett Mill
- Little Hall
- Bolding Mill
- Keiths Bridge
- Burton Mill
- West Bank
- Buford Dam Park
- Sardis Creek
- Little Ridge
- Long Hollow
The association has long lobbied for the lake’s full summer pool to be raised another two feet because of persistently low water levels in the summer and fall. But this week, the association argues it would be unsafe to continuously drain water from the lake for the next two weeks, arguing that released will “exacerbate downstream inundation for weeks of the summer in an effort to return Lake Lanier to the top of conservation in such a short period of time.”
The Army Corps itself warned people to steer clear of the Chattahoochee below the dam in the coming days.
“Wading and other uses of the river will be impossible at these flows,” Robbins said on a Thursday announcement. “Only experienced boaters should attempt navigation during this time. We advise everyone to be aware of these additional flows and take all necessary safety precautions.”
In their letter, Rooks and Cloud ask the Army Corps to deviate from the water control manual — the huge, detailed document that guides federal actions on the lake — and release water quickly until the lake hits 1,073 feet.
“Once 1073 has been achieved, the Corps should then reduce the lake level to 1071 much more gradually over the remainder of the summer recreation period … rather than over a period of a mere two weeks,” they wrote.