As a homeowner on Lake Lanier and an Atlanta resident, I find the rapid decline in Lanier’s level this year extremely frustrating. I am sympathetic to the corps’ operating guidelines as it relates to our precious resource. The corps, like it or not, must supply water downstream to maintain water quality, navigational abilities and (gasp) protect endangered species. I do, however, see a lack of common sense being applied in many respects. Several major complaints come to mind every time I cross the river or look at my dock in Atlanta:
Why is there still not an active management system in place at Buford Dam, a system that automatically shuts or partially closes the dam when a certain level is reached on the river? When it is raining and the river is almost cresting its banks, as it was last Sunday and Monday, we could temporarily reduce the outflow from the dam. There is plenty of water flowing downstream to meet the requirements previously stated. I would wager a minimum of 1 to 2 feet per year could be saved if this were in place.
Power generation; the electricity generated in many cases is not necessary. When updating the operations manual, the corps needs to place electrical generation at the bottom of the priorities list. The economic impact of a full lake will far outweigh the power contributed to our electrical grid by Buford Dam. Generation should only take place when absolutely necessary during times of peak demand.
Draw-down rates are far too rapid. In addition to low levels, large fluctuations create economic uncertainty around the Lake Lanier community. In conjunction with reduced outflows necessitated by drought level zones, we need a formula in place for the speed of reduction. It doesn’t take an actuary to see that the lake will hit the next drought zone when the lake is losing a foot every couple of days.
Watering restrictions should be automatically triggered when the lake reaches specific levels. If you recall, in 2007 we had complete watering bans in place when the lake was at its current level.
Citizens need to realize that we will be in a real pickle if levels fail to recover significantly before summer 2013. All hope is not lost though. On a positive note, there is plenty of water. If we manage the lake proactively, practice conservation and slightly realign our prioritization of the water