South Georgia surface water also shrinking - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia surface water also shrinking

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October 22, 2007

Clay County-  Governor Sonny Perdue is still waiting to hear from the White House after asking President George Bush to declare north Georgia a major disaster area.

Governor Perdue issued his own state of emergency Saturday as the water supply in north Georgia rapidly shrinks. Perdue warned Lake Lanier could be out of water before the years end. He's asked the President to exempt Georgia from complying with federal regulations that dictate how much water must be released from Georgia's reservoirs to protect mussel species downstream.

Perdue has also asked a federal judge to force the Army Corps of Engineers to curb the amount of water it drains from Georgia reservoirs into streams in Alabama and Florida.

Mussels downstream aren't the only concern, businesses along the Chattahoochee River could also stand to lose if water levels aren't maintained. Monday an Army Corps of Engineer site manager at Walter F. George Lake in Clay County says it's the lowest he's seen the lake in 30 years and it's just as bad as what's happening north of Atlanta, the only difference, south Georgia doesn't rely on surface water for its drinking water.

Cypress trees that were once needed to mark shallow areas on Walter F. George Lake are useless, boaters can see the sandbars themselves.

"You can see where the red clay banks are exposed normally the water would be up almost to the top of those," said Richard Johns, U.S. Army Coprs of Engineers Walter F. George Site Manager.

Federal mandates require the Army Corps of Engineers to release at least five-thousand cubic feet of water to maintain protected mussels, but businesses downstream need the water too or face layoffs.

"Downstream we have Farley Nuclear Plant, Georgia Pacific, Paper MIlls located down stream also as well as Gulf Power has a steam plant below or dam in Chattahoochee, Florida," said Johns.

Slowly the Army Corps of Engineers has been lowering five federal areas along the Chattahoochee to provide enough water downstream, but it's hit Lanier the hardest because of Atlanta's drinking water needs.

"It kind of worked its way up the river which Lanier was the last basin on the river that could be used to augment flows down stream and now we're at that point where you know where we pulled the others down basically to the lower section of their pools, their conservation pools and now its starting to pull from Lanier," said Johns.

The Flint River is also low, Crisp County Power Commission is also sending 225 cubic feet less out of the dam at Lake Blackshear downstream below federal guidelines because there isn't enough water coming in and until we get heavy rain there won't be.

"We need some major event to come in and sit on us and give us some rain to fill the basins back up and not only that but to saturate the ground," said Johns.

To refill the aquifers south Georgia relies on for its water and recharge lakes and streams in desperate need.

It could be several weeks before the Army Corps of Engineers decides whether they can honor the Governor's request to release less water from Georgia lakes and particularly Lake Lanier north of Atlanta.

Governor Perdue issued his own state of emergency Saturday as the water supply in north Georgia rapidly shrinks. Perdue warned Lake Lanier could be out of water before the years end. He's asked the President to exempt Georgia from complying with federal regulations that dictate how much water must be released from Georgia's reservoirs to protect mussel species downstream.

Perdue has also asked a federal judge to force the Army Corps of Engineers to curb the amount of water it drains from Georgia reservoirs into streams in Alabama and Florida.

Mussels downstream aren't the only concern, businesses along the Chattahoochee River could also stand to lose if water levels aren't maintained. Monday an Army Corps of Engineer site manager at Walter F. George Lake in Clay County says it's the lowest he's seen the lake in 30 years and it's just as bad as what's happening north of Atlanta, the only difference, south Georgia doesn't rely on surface water for its drinking water.

Cypress trees that were once needed to mark shallow areas on Walter F. George Lake are useless, boaters can see the sandbars themselves.

"You can see where the red clay banks are exposed normally the water would be up almost to the top of those," said Richard Johns, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walter F. George Site Manager.

Federal mandates require the Army Corps of Engineers to release at least five-thousand cubic feet of water to maintain protected mussels, but businesses downstream need the water too or face layoffs.

"Downstream we have Farley Nuclear Plant, Georgia Pacific, Paper MIlls located down stream also as well as Gulf Power has a steam plant below or dam in Chattahoochee, Florida," said Johns.

Slowly the Army Corps of Engineers has been lowering five federal areas along the Chattahoochee to provide enough water downstream, but it's hit Lanier the hardest because of Atlanta's drinking water needs.

"It kind of worked its way up the river which Lanier was the last basin on the river that could be used to augment flows down stream and now we're at that point where you know where we pulled the others down basically to the lower section of their pools, their conservation pools and now its starting to pull from Lanier," said Johns.

The Flint River is also low, Crisp County Power Commission is also sending 225 cubic feet less out of the dam at Lake Blackshear downstream below federal guidelines because there isn't enough water coming in and until we get heavy rain there won't be.

"We need some major event to come in and sit on us and give us some rain to fill the basins back up and not only that but to saturate the ground," said Johns.

To refill the aquifers south Georgia relies on for its water and recharge lakes and streams in desperate need.

It could be several weeks before the Army Corps of Engineers decides whether they can honor the Governor's request to release less water from Georgia lakes and particularly Lake Lanier north of Atlanta.

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