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Corps plans to begin dam releases Friday to draw down Lake Laniers level

GAINESVILLE — Increased releases from Buford Dam are expected to begin Friday, weather permitting, to draw Lake Lanier down toward winter full pool of 1,070 feet above sea level.

The lake was at 1,075.38 feet as of noon Thursday.

“Due to recent rain events and as part of the flood damage reduction operations on the [Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin], releases from Buford Dam were curtailed on Dec. 22 to prevent further flooding and impacts downstream of the project,” said Lisa Parker, deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mobile District.

“Lanier has risen over 4 feet in the past few days and the lake is expected to peak at 1,075.7 msl over the upcoming week.”

Flood risk management is one of the primary missions of the reservoirs in the basin, the largest of which is Lake Lanier.

Portions of North Georgia and Alabama have received up to a foot of rain over the last few days, causing lakes and rivers downstream to rise rapidly, according to the corps.

Increased releases from the dam cannot be made if it is raining as that will increase flood risk downstream, Parker said earlier this week. Rain isn’t forecasted again until a slight chance on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

“The corps continues to monitor the situation and will make necessary changes to water releases to ensure minimal impacts both upstream and downstream,” Parker said.

Drawing the lake back to 1,070 “could take more than a month because of forecasted above average rainfall and limited release capacity,” Parker said.

Many parks and boat ramps have been flooded and closed due to the high lake levels and marinas are working to respond as well.

Debris submerged or floating in the lake makes boating more hazardous.

“Boaters are urged to use extreme caution while operating their boat on the lakes,” Parker said.