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Rep. Collins targets corps for reform

POSTED: April 7, 2013 8:00 a.m.
 

About two weeks ago, Congress, at the request of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, approved the formation of a special caucus to study the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its management of reservoirs such as Lake Lanier.

Last week, the water level on Lanier reached full winter pool for the first time this year, having risen more than 13 feet since the middle of December.

Coincidence?

Almost certainly so, but the timing of the two events couldn’t have been better as attention was focused to the ever fluctuating water levels of the lake at the same time Rep. Collins was discussing the need for better management of the reservoir.

We expect the level of Lanier will continue to rise and fall in tune to the state’s typically cyclical weather patterns, but the news that an effort is under way to review the operations of the Corps of Engineers with the possibility of major reforms is certainly welcomed.

The group to be put together by Georgia’s 9th District congressman certainly will look at more than just the shoreline of Lake Lanier as it studies the corps management of water resources across the nation. But any successful effort to make the corps more efficient and more responsive is sure to have a positive impact on the lake which is so important to the Atlanta area and all of North Georgia.

To be fair, the corps is in a difficult spot itself in deciding how best to manage Lake Lanier, shackled by operational plans and use strategies that have remained in place decades after having become obsolete. Just going by the book doesn’t work when the book is so old as to be useless.

Collins described the corps as “high-spending, low-transparency” and addressed the need to make the corps more responsive. He also noted that the corps is constantly undertaking new projects, when existing projects have not yet been completed, leading to a construction backlog of $60 billion.

A native of Hall County whose congressional district includes northern Forsyth, Collins has plenty of experience watching the shoreline of Lake Lanier come and go, and listening to complaints about how the reservoir’s water is managed. It remains to be seen whether a reform caucus can bring true change to the corps, which is part of a federal government monolith that always prefers the status quo to intelligent reformation.

Only time will tell whether the freshman congressman can amass the political clout needed to make a real difference in how the corps operates. In the meantime, we can rejoice in the fact that a rainy winter has again returned the lake to capacity, and optimistically hope for a summer’s full pool, proving once again that Mother Nature can do what Washington cannot.

 

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