BUFORD — The chief operating officer of Lake Lanier Islands told attendees at a chamber of commerce meeting Wednesday that overall visitation to Lake Lanier had declined by 1 million visitors this year, due to a combination of low lake levels and the economy.
Grier Todd was the featured speaker at a meeting of the South Hall Business Coalition of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. Todd, who is also chairman of the 1071 Coalition, a newly formed lake advocacy group, said a top priority is to conduct a thorough economic impact study of the lake.
Todd said the study would be used in providing a strong argument for the lake in both the update of the operation manuals for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin and in pending litigation over the authorized purpose of Lanier.
Todd said the lake level, which is expected to reach a new record low in early December, is hurting the entire region.
"I can’t begin to tell you what an impact the lake level has on the economy of North Georgia — it is significant," Todd said. "There are a lot of people out there who are hurting just because of the lake level."
Todd said without a significant weather event, such as the remnants of a tropical storm, it could be a long time before the lake begins to recover.
He said the new coalition would be telling the story of Lake Lanier, much as the seafood industry has been advocating for Apalachicola Bay.
"Our goal is to get the lake full," he said, adding that one misconception is that the city of Atlanta is taking excessive amounts of water from Lanier for drinking water.
"The numbers do not back that up," he said.
Todd said Lanier is being drained like a fire hose, but is being replenished by a garden hose.
"The corps has to look at Lanier as something different," he said. "It is the largest storage area in the basin, but has the smallest watershed."
The meeting, which took place at the islands, was also an opportunity to showcase the major face-lift at the resort. Workers are putting final touches on two traffic roundabouts. One will feature a court of flags and the other has a clock tower. The two features will be visible during the upcoming Magical Nights of Lights, the holiday light show that begins Nov. 22.