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Rain keeps corps from reducing lake level
With the recent rain, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may not be able to reach its goal of keeping the wintertime level of Lake Lanier below 1,070 feet above sea level. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had hoped to reduce Lake Lanier’s elevation to its winter full pool of 1,070 feet above sea level by Dec. 1.

So much for that, thanks to the rain.

The lake now sits at 1,072.21 feet and, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, more rain is on the way this weekend.

Still, the corps expects to have Lanier drawn down to 1,070 feet between Dec. 16 and 18, "barring no rain events," spokeswoman Lisa Coghlan said on Wednesday.

The corps’ four-week forecast, updated every Thursday, reflected that trend as well on its Web site Wednesday.

It wasn’t so long ago that drought was stifling Lanier from reaching the summer full pool of 1,071 feet above sea level.

Lanier hit that mark on Oct. 12 and has continued to creep upward, reaching a peak of 1,073.05 feet on Nov. 13. As the calendar turned to December, the rain that characterized the fall continued.

According to, the area has received 2.11 inches this month, with the normal total at 1.12 inches. And for the year, nearly 68 inches have fallen, or about 17 inches more than the normal amount, 51 inches.

Plus, weather forecasters and climatologists are predicting an El Niño weather pattern this winter, meaning wetter-than-normal weather.

In November, Coghlan said the corps would generate "as much as possible at Lanier without causing impacts downstream."

The outflow was increased to 8,420 cubic feet per second from 710 cfs. By Nov. 27, Lanier had dropped to 1,071.06 feet.

"The rain events over the last several weeks have prevented the corps from drawing down to ... 1,070," Coghlan said.

During heavy rains, the corps releases only minimum flows to stem potential flooding downstream. Rain trickles into Lanier up to three days after a heavy rainfall, corps officials have said.

"They’re not releasing today," Tim Rainey, the corps’ operations projects manager at Buford Dam, said on Wednesday. "(The Chattahoochee River) is still rising down at Vinings (in Cobb County), so (the corps) is going to wait until that subsides.

"But I haven’t heard of any flooding or anything."

When North Georgia was smacked with historic floods in September, the corps was criticized for releasing any water at all.

Lake advocates took issue again in November with the corps, which had said that the lake’s rising waters had flooded some docks and walkways and caused some erosion.

Lake Lanier Association officials, who are pushing the summer full pool be increased to 1,073 feet, said they had heard no complaints or concerns from association members about the increased levels.

"In my opinion, (the higher level) has been wonderful," Debbie Parker, who lives off the lake in North Hall, said on Wednesday.

"We have an erosion wall; we think that helps a lot. And we’ve had no erosion problems whatsoever."

A community dock sitting off the Parkers’ property also has fared OK during the rains.

"We’ve had to move the dock ramp in and out. It was under water for a little while, but other than that, it’s been terrific."