In response to a concern about our push to increase the full pool of Lake Lanier to 1,073 feet: While we don’t like to see public recreation areas and personal property compromised by high water levels, it is very instructive to see what the effects of 1,073 are on the surrounding lake areas.
Those familiar with the operating procedures for the ACF System know that the pressure to keep the flow of fresh water continuing — from parties within Georgia as well as Alabama and Florida — is not expected to ease anytime soon. Nor are we aware of any upcoming revisions to the Endangered Species Act that will substantially change how the corps and Fish and Wildlife Service operate. Realistically, Georgia needs to increase water supply storage capacity for the future. That leads to making some choices with taxpayer dollars: Build new reservoirs or increase the capacity of existing reservoirs.
Compared to the known and unknown costs of building a new reservoir, we have a book of knowledge on what the impact of Lake Lanier at 1,073 would be once implemented. We realize this is not a no-cost proposal. We know money would be needed for infrastructure improvements around the lake, including possibly Buford Dam and the saddle dikes.
But what we also know is that no comparably-sized new reservoir is feasible in Georgia, geographically or economically. One of the last reservoirs to come online in Georgia was the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir in Canton. It is a 6 billion gallon reservoir, of which only a portion is in the conservation pool and available to be dispatched. I believe the final cost on Hickory Creek was about $100 million, $75 million over original estimates. The cost was higher than projected because of unexpected cost increases that occurred during construction.
Given how expensive reservoirs are to construct, we advocate, at a minimum, doing a cost-benefit study of the 1,073 concept so taxpayers who will shoulder the burden of construction and elected officials can make an informed decision about how best to increase fresh water storage capacity.
Events like Lanier’s current overfull condition provide information about what is needed adjust for a full pool of 1,073. We conducted a survey among our membership, people familiar with Lake Lanier shoreline issues, asking about 1,073 and they overwhelmingly supported the concept. Longtime lake residents may recall we went from a summer full pool of 1,070 to 1,071 in the 1970s, and some adjustments had to be made then, just as would have to be made for 1,073.
But the point is we would gain an extra 26 billion gallons of stored water, 100 percent of which would be in the conservation pool for drinking water or downstream flow requirements. The cost of adding that amount of water to our existing supply system would be a tiny fraction of the cost of building reservoirs that would be required to even come close to equaling a similar volume elsewhere.
Executive Director, Lake Lanier Association