Lake Lanier's operations project manager said Tuesday he hopes a draft of the new water control manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin will be finished early next year.
The draft will be available for public comment, including input from government agencies.
"Then it will be taken back and considered, and the plan will be revised to address those comments, with the final plan ... delivered in 2012," Tim Rainey said in addressing the Gainesville Kiwanis Club.
He said later that public comment for the draft is slated for August through October.
"All of that could change, depending on any action from Congress or ... agreement from the new governors (of Georgia, Florida and Alabama) or any results or determination from the ongoing appeals in the courts."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said that, for now, it is leaning on U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson's July 2009 ruling that Lake Lanier was never intended as a drinking source for area communities.
Magnuson gave Georgia three years to resolve the situation with its neighbors or face not being able to use Lanier as a water source. Gainesville is an exception, but would see its withdrawals drop to 1970s levels.
The corps plans to "implement updated manuals that conform to the district court's order when it goes into full effect in July 2012," Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army, said in a Sept. 3 letter to several U.S. senators, including Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, both Georgia Republicans.
Rainey said he doesn't know whether the corps has been asked to comment on congressional legislation that has been introduced to make water supply an authorized use for Lanier.
"I don't know that we would (comment)," he said. "We don't get involved in the legislative portion of that (issue). It's not our business. Congress does what they need to do and we do what they tell us to do."
Rainey also reflected on Lake Lanier's recovery from the devastating two-year drought that ended in 2009.
"We would still be down today, honestly, if we did not get the floods back in September (2009). We never would have reached full pool, no matter what our water management staff did," he said.
Lake Lanier reached the summer full pool of 1,071 feet above sea level on Oct. 14, 2009.
Levels have remained steady this year, even as dry conditions have returned.
The corps has "learned a great deal on how to keep the releases to a minimum when necessary, to keep the system balanced," Rainey said. "And remember, I've got to keep focusing on that - they're balancing the entire ACF (basin). They're not just working to keep water in Lanier."