In my memory, based on 32 years of residence in Georgia, our lakes were very low in 1986. They struggled to reach full pool in 1988. They were low again in 1999-2000. Thanks to hurricanes in 2004-2005, full pool was reached. In 2006-2008, Lake Lanier dropped to 25 feet below full pool (1,046 feet). In 2009, thanks to a record December-January rainfall, it was full again. In 2010-2015, Lanier ranged from 1,065 to 1,071 feet. With above average rain in 2015, Lanier rose to 1,074 feet.
We now are in a serious drought that began in early summer. We are down 10 feet with no end in sight amid the continued Alabama, Florida and Georgia water wars.
There are five lakes along the Chattahoochee River basin: Lanier, West Point Lake, Lake Harding, Walter F. George Lake (Lake Eufala) and Lake Seminole. That is not enough. We need three more: Glades Reservoir in Hall County, to be built and completed; and Panhandle Lakes 1 and 2 in Wewahitchka, Fla., and Apalachicola.
We need to build dams and clear trees as they did for Lanier in the early 1950s. In addition, we need to increase the water level of Lanier to 1,074 feet, along with Eufala, Seminole, Harding and West Point to raise all 3 feet more above sea level. This should be done slowly during periods of above average rainfall. As noted, we’ve been blessed with four periods of above average rainfall for the past 18 years. We’ve also had three extended periods of drought. We need to collect some of the extra rain in existing and new reservoirs. This will even out the flow of fresh water into Apalachee Bay. I know how important consistent amounts of fresh water are to the fishing industry. We must decrease the flow in times of high rainfall and increase it during the many droughts.
Another way to accomplish this would be to build two reservoirs on the Flint River to be filled only in times of excess rainfall. Two suggested spots would be north of Albany and south of Fayette County near Starr’s Mill. A third idea would be to increase the depth of Lake Blackshear by raising its level more than 3 feet above sea level.
These lakes were built 60 years ago to smooth out the rivers’ flow, prevent flooding and provide hydroelectric power. These steps would further these causes while providing additional consistency to the flow of fresh water into Apalachee Bay. Additional tourism, fishing, watersports, animal habitats and revenue would follow.
Raising Lanier’s level to 1,074 would be the first and easiest step. I see only one bridge impacted, on Mount Vernon Road, which should be raised about 6 feet in the center. Most lake areas can accommodate 1,074 feet, as seen last spring. This extra 3 feet of water would do wonders in times of drought for a cleaner lake and to help fish and wildlife.
We need a petition for 1,074 to be signed by all the people who live on Lake Lanier to send to the Corps of Engineers and Congress.
David J. Liddell, Deborah S. Liddell