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Lanier now just 9 feet short of historic low
Lake last at full pool May 1
Leonel Tastillo pulls his boat out of the water at the Clarks Bridge Park boat ramp Sunday. The level of Lake Lanier has been steadily dropping recently. - photo by Tom Reed

Lake Lanier dropped below 1,060 feet above sea level this weekend, getting even closer to the lake's historic low and farther from the normal full pool.

"Right now, there are just too many shallow water problems — there are stumps everywhere sticking out of the water," said Bob Benson, a lake guide the past three years and an Oakwood resident.

As for his business, "there are no phone calls," said Benson, visiting Clarks Bridge Park in Gainesville Sunday. "People aren't going out."

The lake has been on a downward trend for months now, away from the full pool of 1,071 feet and stirring memories of the devastating 2007-2009 drought.

On Sunday, Lanier stood at 1,059.96 feet, or 9 feet and a few inches above the historic low elevation of 1,050.79 feet on Dec. 26, 2007. After hitting that low, Lanier's water level slowly crept up, then dropped again, basically not hitting above 1,060 feet until March 28, 2009.

The last time Lanier has been lower than it is now is March 27, 2009. The last time it was at full pool was May 1.

Georgia has been dealing with drought conditions throughout 2010.

The U.S. Drought Monitor's current map shows most of Georgia, including a small portion of South Hall, in extreme drought. Only extreme Northwest Georgia has normal conditions.

Most of Hall County is in moderate to severe drought, according to the map, which is updated every Thursday based on data collected through 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Southeast Georgia, particularly, has suffered from extreme drought for much of 2010.

As extreme drought moves farther north, the effects are becoming more visible on Lanier, through boat ramp closings and shoreline exposing hardened dirt and beached tree limbs.

"I'm lucky the (ramp) down the road from me at Balus Creek (park) is still open," said Larry Brenner, owner of Oakwood Bait & Tackle, also visiting Clarks Bridge Sunday. "Otherwise, I'd really be in trouble.

"The last time the lake went down in 2008, it affected us directly."

Negative buzz about the lake is spreading among area anglers.

"You had a couple of guys hitting tree stumps and things like that," Brenner said.

Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stopped issuing dock permits on Lanier after the water level hit 1,063 feet.

The corps was forced to stop that process during the last drought, as well, and only restarted it in January, with the aim of handing out the remaining 187 permits on the lake.

Corps officials have pinned hopes of drenching rains coming through the hurricane season, with Mobile District spokeswoman Lisa Coghlan saying that could be a "game changer."

But that has produced no relief, so far, and the season ends Nov. 30.

Compounding troubles is that October is generally one of the driest months of the year.

The next chance for rain in the Hall County area is a "slight chance of showers" for Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

Otherwise, expect sunny skies through Sunday and high temperatures ranging from the lower 60s to lower 70s.


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