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Senators push for corps to consider Lanier withdrawals as part of water control plan
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Georgia’s U.S. senators are pushing federal officials to include the effects of current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier in the update of the water control manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.

Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, both Republicans, sent a letter Tuesday to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, and Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

They referred to U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson’s July 21 ruling, which says Florida failed to prove that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ignored evidence when it decided how much water Georgia should release downstream of Jim Woodruff Dam to support Florida’s endangered species.

In 2008, federal wildlife officials determined the corps’ interim operations plan would not jeopardize the survival of threatened Gulf sturgeon and three freshwater mussel species.

The ruling won high praise from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, but it did nothing to affect Magnuson’s July 2009 ruling that says Lake Lanier can’t be used as a municipal source of drinking water.

Isakson and Chambliss quote Magnuson’s ruling in saying that an environmental impact statement “that does not at least consider the effects of current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier as well as other points in the ACF system is, for all intents and purposes, a useless document.”

“We agree with (Magnuson) ... and urge the corps to take all options into account as you update this manual,” the senators wrote.

“We strongly believe that the corps can update the manual in a way that accommodates any solution resulting from ongoing negotiations between the governors of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.”

The three states have been wrangling for some 20 years over water uses in the ACF basin, particularly Lake Lanier, which serves as a major water source for metro Atlanta.

Isakson and Chambliss further requested that the federal officials contact their respective offices to arrange a meeting on the topic.
“We appreciate your consideration of our views, and your attention to our request,” they said in the letter.

Corps officials couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Staff writer Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.

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