Lake Lanier has stayed around 1,071 feet above sea level
Jeff Gill, Gainesville Times
With levels up and summer just ahead, Lake Lanier is sitting pretty.
“I think lake levels this summer will be fine. We’re in good shape,” said state climatologist David Stooksbury, speaking in an interview last week about summer conditions.
The lake’s summer full pool elevation of 1,071 feet above sea level took effect Sunday, and Lanier has hovered around that mark since early February. The last time the lake dropped below 1,070 feet — the winter full pool — was Feb. 4.
“Lanier is big enough, even though it has a small watershed, that … it doesn’t start getting into trouble into we start having multiyear droughts,” Stooksbury said. “The fact that we’re in good shape right now bodes well for the summer.”
He doesn’t have a summer forecast for North Georgia at this point, but no one should fret even if conditions turn out to be “very dry.”
In that case, “We’d see Lanier drop but not to the (level) we saw in 2007,” Stooksbury said.
In a drought that lasted from 2007 to 2009, Lanier fell to all-time low of 1,050.79 feet in December 2007. The reservoir finally hit full pool in October 2009.
Earlier this year, the Hall County area fell back into mild drought, believed to be the result of a La Niña atmospheric pattern that produces drier than normal conditions. As that ended, spring rains, some quite heavy, proved to be a drought buster for Northeast Georgia.
Drought conditions persist, however, for Middle and South Georgia, and Stooksbury doesn’t expect that to let up.
“We are much more confident in saying that drought conditions will worsen (there) over the next couple of months,” he said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ four-week lake level forecast for Lanier, normally posted on the corps’ website, wasn’t available Sunday evening.
Lisa Coghlan, spokeswoman for the corps’ Mobile District, which includes Lake Lanier, said her agency takes a basinwide approach to managing the lakes.
“When there are drier conditions throughout the (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River) basin, we try to hold back as much water as we possibly can at Lake Lanier,” Coghlan said.
The Lake Lanier Association has long advocated raising Lanier’s full pool level to 1,073 feet, creating a larger supply of water and providing a solution to the long water wars fight between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
The group has stepped up efforts this year, earning endorsements from several area governments.
“Additionally, the Georgia General Assembly has recently appropriated $2 million for a study on the 1,073 concept,” said Joanna Cloud, the organization’s executive director.
“We are hopeful the (corps) will initiate that study to look at the engineering aspects of raising the lake as well as the impact on downstream users,” she added.
The group feels that raising the lake “will act as an insurance policy to downstream users, helping to ensure enough water is available during times of drought, while giving our region more of a buffer against extremely low lake levels which adversely impact boating safety and our local economy,” Cloud said.