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Meeting to focus on water manual update, lakes economic impact
Consultant will give update on corps work on Wednesday
With rising levels, the lake is back to being a popular boating destination. The 1071 Coalition will hold a public forum about the lake this Wednesday. - photo by Tom Reed

A consultant leading a study to update the operating manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin plans to give an update on his work at a Wednesday public forum.

Jerry Barnes, special assistant and director of the Southeast Water Manual Update for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is set to speak at the event sponsored by the 1071 Coalition, a nonprofit group concerned with maintaining healthy water levels at Lake Lanier.

The corps hired Barnes to lead the study.

Area lake advocates have pushed hard for the update, as the current manual is 50 years old and the basin — particularly with Atlanta’s sprawling growth —has changed drastically over the years.

Barnes "has been in the area talking to lots of folks, but his job is ... to find out everything (about the basin)," said Kit Dunlap, vice chairwoman of the group.

He will give a progress report on the manual, then answer some questions, said Dunlap, who is also chief executive officer of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

The forum is set to begin at 6 p.m. at Lake Lanier Islands’ Legacy Lodge and Conference Center.

Pete Taylor, chief of staff for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mobile District, talked about the water manual update May 5 at the Lake Lanier Association’s annual membership meeting.

"We’re not solving the (tri-state) water wars, but we’re going to make the smartest decisions we can" through the manual update, he said at the event.

Georgia, Alabama and Florida are tangled in heavy litigation over the use of Lake Lanier. A federal judge is hearing all the cases in a Florida court and, according to association officials, is expected to rule this year.

Taylor said the schedule calls for revisions to be completed by January 2012.

The process is expected to cost $8 million, including $3 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Also, the coalition plans to give an update on an economic impact study.

"We’ve been raising money ... but we’ve got a way to go to pay for that," Dunlap said. "We’ve gotten a lot of private donations and some public support too, because (the issue is) important to everybody."

Dunlap said the group "wants (a study) that is factual and takes into consideration recreation, water supply, power generation and the economic impact on surrounding counties."

The coalition had its kickoff meeting in December with a singular goal.

"We want to get the lake full, and then make sure that proper management practices are in place to keep it full," the group’s chairman, Grier Todd, said at the time. "We will be here for a short time. We expect our lifespan (as a group) will be about four years."

The group’s board of directors meets monthly, but Wednesday night’s event is its second "big public meeting," Dunlap said.

"We want to keep the attention on Lake Lanier," she said. "Everybody’s attention span goes away in a hurry when the lake gets to full (pool). We just want to keep that focus right there."

Full pool is 1,071 feet above sea level. Sunday afternoon, the lake was at 1,066.07.