The recent soaking rains helped elevate Lake Lanier to flood stage, but the excess water has not led to any major problems.
“Well, right now it’s not an issue,” said Patrick Robbins, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mobile District. “We will try to evacuate that water as quickly and safely as we can to get the water back to 1,070.”
For winter, the lake is officially 3 feet over full pool. Summer full pool is 1,071 feet above sea level. The level was at 1,072.89 feet as of Thursday.
Because of the raised water levels, some park locations and boat ramps have been roped off to visitors, including a portion of West Bank Park and the ramp at Toto Creek Park.
“Basically, the water’s high enough that those ramps are mostly submerged,” said Chris Lovelady, Lanier’s assistant operations project manager. “We just want people to be careful.”
To bring those waters down, water is being released downstream at Buford Dam “around the clock,” Robbins said.
“We have to monitor downstream conditions,” he added about how much water is being released. “We don’t want to flood anybody.”
The good news is that few people are out at the parks because of both the colder weather and the Christmas holiday week.
“We get a lot of normal activity, a lot of walking,” Lovelady said. “A lot of people walking the parks. But not going in the lake.”
There’s also no rain in the forecast through Monday, which will help bring the lake back down to a more manageable level.
The lack of any real issues with the elevated waters right now lend to the argument of Joanna Cloud to raise the lake’s full pool to 1,073.
Cloud is the executive director of the Lake Lanier Association, a nonprofit established to protect the lake’s environment while enhancing its economic value to the state.
“A full pool of 1,073 brings us an additional 26 billion gallons of fresh water supply,” Cloud said.
She compared that to Hickory Log Creek Reservoir in Cherokee County which holds about 6 billion gallons of water.
The lake has been at 1,073 feet more than 300 times in its history, Cloud added. Her point is there are so many unknowns in building a new reservoir, such as the proposed Glades Reservoir in northern Hall County, that it makes sense to raise the level of an existing one.
“When you look at long-term water supply for the Atlanta region, having 26 billion gallons in Lanier ... would be economically a good thing to analyze,” she said. “We have a book of knowledge of what the issues are that we could go address, versus going to build a new reservoir [with] tons of unknowns.”
The maximum flood pool for Lanier is 1,085 feet. The highest the water level has ever been was 1,077 feet in 1964.