The Lake Lanier Association has begun our review of the Glades reservoir project sponsored by the Hall County Board of Commissioners. After attending the US Army Corps of Engineers Public Agency and Scoping Meeting in Gainesville on Wednesday, March 20, we have some observations.
As background, the Glades project began in 2007. The proposed reservoir would have stored available natural stream flow from Flat Creek and would have been intended to supplement existing water supplies from Lake Lanier (through the City of Gainesville water system), to meet the needs of eastern and northern Hall County through the year 2060. It was to provide 6.4 million gallons per day of water.
In 2009 Federal Administrative Law Judge Paul Magnusson issued a ruling as part of the Tri-States water war litigation that Lake Lanier was not authorized to provide water supply for North Georgia and the city of Atlanta which was subsequently overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In spite of that ruling, the Glades project grew from 6.4 MGD to 80 MGD.
Today, the plan is for an 850-acre reservoir that will be used to augment the flow to the Cedar Creek Reservoir during periods of low flow. Nominally at its maximum capacity, 80 MGD will be withdrawn directly from the Chattahoochee to supply water to the Cedar Creek Reservoir in Hall County only.
As we understand it, the Glades Reservoir will only be used to “make up” inadequate flow during low flow periods. With this dramatic proposed water withdrawal from the main Lake Lanier water supply, we feel the following questions need to be considered and evaluated:
- What is the impact on Lake Lanier of taking 80 MGD from the main Lanier input river and transferring the flow to another basin (Oconee)?
- Further, the water flowing into and out of the Cedar Creek reservoir will be managed by Hall County, not the Corps of Engineers. What will the Hall County management strategy for water flows and utilization be?
The Hall County proposal estimates that the only impact on Lanier would be a reduction in the water level by 3.5 inches. We feel that an independent evaluation of this impact would provide not just an “inches average” reduction but should include the maximum impact and frequency on Lanier, which has been at 21 feet of water loss during drought conditions.
Last June the Magnusson ruling was overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and that decision was “en banc” supported by all 10 of the Appellate Court Judges.
We now ask, “Is it really necessary to increase the Glades project to 80 MGD, now that Lake Lanier has been validated and authorized as water supply purpose?”
North and Eastern Hall County are not the only growth areas above Lake Lanier. Habersham and White Counties will no doubt experience significant growth along with Hall County. The total impact of all of the growth on the Lake Lanier recreation economy should be evaluated.
In summary, we are convinced that a significant detailed study is needed to determine the impacts on Lanier and downstream stakeholders of creating a large diversion of the main water source for North Georgia and other water users. We will continue to study these questions and will prepare a final comment document for the Corps by April 17, 2012, as directed by the current process.