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Corps offers update on water releases from Lake Lanier

BUFORD — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that the flood control operations it implemented in the wake of heavy rains last month in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin captured 60 billion gallons of flood water.

According to Lisa Parker, deputy public affairs officer with the corps, portions of Alabama, Florida and Georgia received up to 15 inches of rain over a 14-day span, which caused the rivers within the basins to rise rapidly.

“[The corps] curtailed release from Buford Dam on Dec. 22 at Lake Lanier to only minimal releases of approximately 650 cubic-feet-per-second through the small house unit,” Parker said in a statement.

“To reduce flooding downstream, only the small unit was being run at Buford. [That unit] generates power for the dam, the project office, maintenance areas and recreational facilities around the lake and assisted in maintaining viable conditions for essential habitat below the dam.”

Parker went on to note that limiting the releases retained 60 billion gallons of flood waters in Lanier as the lake level peaked at elevation 1075.5 feet above sea level.

“This is the equivalent of filling the Georgia Dome more 100 times,” she said. “This allowed downstream river conditions to lower, thus preventing much higher levels below Lanier.”

The high water level caused a host of closings at boat ramps, parks and recreation sites around Lanier.

As of Friday, the lake level was at 1,074.35 feet, which is still more than 4 feet above the winter full pool of 1,070 feet. Lanier’s record high water level is 1,077.15, recorded on April 14, 1964.

Corps officials have previously said that drawing down the lake level “could take more than a month because of forecasted above-average rainfall and limited release capacity.”

According to Parker, the flow out of large dams is rarely halted completely due to adverse impacts on river environments.

The corps worked with local, city and state officials, as well as emergency managers and others to relay information.

As downstream river conditions improve, the corps is releasing water in preparation of potential future storm events.