Thursday was a red-letter day for Hall County water.
A 21-month drought ended and Lake Lanier hit 1,064 feet above sea level, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers restarting its dock review process.
“If people call (today), we’ll start doing dock upgrades, and starting Monday ... we’ll start making phone calls to those people on our lottery list and scheduling appointments for those,” said Ernest Noe, chief ranger at the Buford Dam office.
The corps has been trying for several years to issue the remaining permits on the lake, with the cap at 10,615, but up-and-down lake levels have interrupted the process.
Corps officials have said they need the lake to stay consistently above 1,064 feet to keep the process going or to resume it. The lake hit 1,064 feet Thursday morning and could continue to rise, if current weather forecasts hold.
Since 2009, the corps has been using a lottery method to issue what had been about 175 dock permits. The agency has 91 permits left to issue and 84 applications to review, Noe said.
Some of those requests could be for community docks, which would account for more than one slip, he added.
However, given the past track record of 95 approvals to 143 denials, “it looks like we may have a few permits left over,” after the lottery is completed, Noe said.
If so, the corps would revert to a first-come, first-serve basis of application reviews, he said.
Recent rainfall and winter snows across extreme North Georgia have helped give Lake Lanier a much-needed bounce in the past few weeks, rising from what had been a low of 1,056 feet on Dec. 18.
Levels had been spiraling downward, but a combination of rains and the corps’ decision to reduce releases from Buford Dam have helped reverse the trend.
Lake levels are higher than corps projections, which show, as of Jan. 30, Lanier reaching 1,064 by Feb. 23 and surging to 1,064.4 feet by early March.
“Heavy consecutive rain events in the ACF basin have allowed ... reservoirs to recover significantly,” states the corps’ biweekly drought update, released Tuesday. “Lake Lanier has seen very large gains this winter.”
The report refers to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin straddling Georgia, Alabama and Florida, with Lake Lanier in the upper Chattahoochee basin.
“Over the next week, the ACF will have two systems move through the area and are expected to provide multiple inches of rain over parts of the basin,” the report stated.
The first system arrived Thursday and was expected to “provide much needed rain to the Flint River,” according to the corps. “The second will arrive Monday or Tuesday and could produce multiple inches of rain in the basin.”
The National Weather Service in Peachtree City confirmed that, predicting a chance of rain through Wednesday.
Soggy days have benefited Hall, which is out of the drought for the first time since May 2011.
The U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest report, issued Thursday, shows Hall having normal conditions, upgraded from “abnormally dry” just a week ago.
The national report, issued weekly by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., is based on data collected through 7 a.m. each Tuesday.
Most of Northeast Georgia and Northwest Georgia have normal rainfall amounts. Those areas have been battered by rain, snow and, in some cases, floods, over the past month.
More rain fell Thursday and, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, wet conditions may not leave quickly, as a chance of rain is predicted off and on through Wednesday. A total of .27 inch of rain was recorded at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville by 6 p.m. Lake Lanier was 1,064.04 feet above sea level at 6:15 p.m.
The drought report shows, however, that most of Georgia continues to languish in drought. That’s particularly true for Middle Georgia, which is labeled as having “exceptional” drought.