The 1071 Coalition released the results of a study Tuesday that show Lake Lanier's economic impact is staggering.
The study estimates that of the reduction of recreational spending on Lake Lanier from 2007 to 2008, about $87.6 million was directly attributable to low lake levels.
The study, funded by the 1071 Coalition, was commissioned in 2009 to assess the impacts of low lake levels on the region. It was conducted by Bleakley Advisory Group, PBS&J and Dr. Bruce Seaman.
"The major thrust of our report was to look at what happened in 2008 and try to quantify that," said Gary Mongeon, vice president of Bleakly Advisory Group. "We determined that approximately 880,000 fewer visitors went to the lake."
Mongeon said the drop in the lake level was not only the lowest in Lake Lanier's history but also fell during the entire boating season of 2008.
Boating season runs from April to October, when nearly 80 percent of visits occur.
The study also showed it was primarily the lake level, not the downturn in the economy that was responsible for the reduced activity on Lake Lanier.
"The recession did not fully impact the region until after the 2008 boating season," Mongeon said.
The study estimates the drop in visitors in 2008 resulted in a loss of $1.83 million to $1.94 million in local option sales taxes to the five counties surrounding Lake Lanier. The reduced economic activity also meant a loss of 987 to 1,224 lake-related jobs.
Alex Laidlaw, president of the 1071 Coalition, said the study, which took two years and $180,000 to conduct, explains just how valuable Lake Lanier is to the region.
"There was a significant reduction wherever we were looking due to the low lake levels," Laidlaw said.
"There's nothing that wasn't touched."
Laidlaw said the study is "very defendable and conservative in its approach" and hopes it can help Georgia politically.
"We will go out to the state and federal politicians and get this into their hands," Laidlaw said. "Hopefully this will drive some discussion and change in the way they
look at these reservoirs and how they are managed."