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Posted: Tuesday, January 24th 2012 at 11:23am

ARC provides Lanier update

By Marc Eggers Staff
click to enlarge
Pat Stevens, ARC
BUFORD The setting could not have been any more ideal than the Legacy Lodge Conference Center at Lake Lanier Islands for the morning's topic of discussion: water. Members of the South Hall Business Coalition were treated to panoramic views of the 37,000 acre reservoir as they arrived for their monthly meeting.

"Water, water everywhere," began Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce president Kit Dunlap in her welcoming remarks, "but every day there is something about water (in the news)."

"Water is very complicated, water is very expensive, and water is very political," Dunlap added as she introduced guest speaker Pat Stevens, Chief of the Environmental Planning Division of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

"Georgia owns the Chattahoochee River," Stevens established at the onset of her update, grabbing everyone's attention. "And because the (north Georgia) bedrock is ...granite, we (the 15-county region under her domain) have to depend on our rivers and streams."

Referencing the recently (December, 2011) approved Governor's Water Supply Program, Stevens proudly explained that the Atlanta area has done very well in dealing with water.

Implementing a three-pronged focus water supply and use, waste water management, and storm water management has made the Atlanta region a paragon in water management. "We have a very aggressive water program...and it has made a difference. The metropolitan north Georgia water planning district is now the national leader in conservation."

"We have out-California'ed California," Stevens said.

But litigation is one of the major stumbling blocks that hinders securing the area's future water needs, according to Ms. Stevens, whether it involves the tri-state water war, permitting of new reservoirs, or Corp of Army Engineers management of Lake Lanier.

"Do you think we'll ever get a number out of the Corp (regarding authorized water withdrawals from Lanier)," asked Hall County Commissioner Tom Oliver from the audience.

"It's clear that here are going to be water allocations (made), but how much I don't know," Stevens responded.

"Folks downstream see this big lake (Lanier) and think it's not being managed right if it's not empty," Stevens said. "Most of the water coming into our basin falls on the ground below Buford Dam."

One of the major problems, according to Stevens, is that three major dams authorized in 1946 to be built on the Flint River have never been constructed. "They were de-authorized in the 1970's when Jimmy Carter was President."

Yet the required water flow (5,000 cubic feet per second) necessary to sustain the environment of four endangered species is measured below the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers at a meter located in Chattahoochee, Florida.

Therefore, as a result of the absence of the three planned Flint River reservoirs, combined with the more absorbent soils of mid-Georgia and the increasing agricultural use of water in the area, water passing the measuring point in Chattahoochee, Florida, is very effected by lack of water coming from the Flint River system.

"Our estimate," Stevens added, "is that last summer Lanier was drawn down about four feet because of water that did not come from the Flint."

"There is a reduction in flow from the Flint of about 40 percent," Stevens said. "I don't know how you're going to resolve that."

Details on the Governor's Water Planning Program is available at their website; a link to that site is provided below.

Link: Governor's Water Supply Program
Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News

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Gainesville, GA 30501
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