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Group forms to fight for Lanier
1071 Coalition includes area power brokers
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Forsyth County News

An advocacy group with plans to become a major voice for Lake Lanier was officially announced Tuesday.

The 1071 Coalition is named for the full pool level of the lake, 1,071 feet above mean sea level. The directors of the coalition are a powerful contingent of business leaders, lake homeowners and top executives of chambers of commerce.

Grier Todd, chief operating officer for Lake Lanier Islands resort, has been tapped as president of the coalition.

"We see this as a broad-based effort to bring business, government and individuals under one umbrella on behalf of Lake Lanier," Todd said.

Among its first goals is to complete an economic impact study of the lake to counter information coming from other states.

Also on the group's early agenda is to become an active participant in the update of water control manuals used by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin.

The first in a series of meetings on the project was scheduled for Wednesday in Gainesville.

Organizers thought that there is no single entity whose sole mission is maintaining healthy water levels in Lake Lanier and representing lake interests.

The coalition estimates that the three-year effort during the development of the water plan for the basin will require a budget of $700,000 for legal fees, research, engineering and public relations.

"Businesses are hurting, even closing, and residents are losing property values," said Kit Dunlap, president and chief executive of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and vice president of the 1071 Coalition.

"Local governments have implemented appropriate conservation measures and emergency operating measures. Business and local governments are doing our part, because we are feeling firsthand the devastating impact of the lake's low levels."

Other advocacy groups along the basin, such as representatives of the seafood industry in Apalachicola Bay, have had a strong presence in the media and with government agencies.

The new coalition hopes to establish a strong voice for the upper portion of the basin.

"Once the lake is full again, we want to make sure that other stakeholders recognize that Lanier is different from the other reservoirs in the basin," Todd said. "We understand that this is the faucet for the basin, but it is filled with a garden hose."

Todd's comments were echoed by Wilton Rooks, an officer of the Lake Lanier Association and secretary of the 1071 Coalition.

"Considering Lake Lanier has a small watershed and is slow to fill, the corps needs to conserve as much storage as possible at the top of the ACF system," Rooks said.

In addition to Dunlap, chamber of commerce executives from Forsyth and Gwinnett counties are on the board, as well as a number of marina owners and real estate firms that specialize in lake properties.

Gainesville civic leaders Jim Walters and Philip Wilheit also were named to the board of directors.

The group has scheduled its first major meeting for 6 p.m. Dec. 9 at Legacy Lodge at Lake Lanier Islands.