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Corps working on 'useless' plan for Lanier
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Forsyth County News

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By: Jim Dean

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Fifty years ago, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers compiled its last operational manual for Lake Lanier, it did not include “drinking water supply” as one of the major uses for the impoundment, which instead was envisioned for primary use as flood control, navigation and hydropower.

At that time, the explosive growth that was to occur in the metro Atlanta area was little more than a dream of the most visionary of leaders in the region, and the idea that the lake’s water would be needed by millions of people on a daily basis was impossible to imagine.

But we grow and learn. Over the course of subsequent years the corps bore witness to the growth, realized the importance of the waters held in check by Buford Dam, and allowed area governments to tap into the lake in a controlled and regulated manner to help quench the region’s thirst.

And it made sense to do so.

So now, as it works on the first update of the operational manual for the lake in more than 50 years, the corps plans to incorporate the need to use Lanier as a source of drinking water as part of that revised operational strategy, right? Wrong.

Officials with the corps announced earlier this month that when the revamped operational manual is submitted for approval, the need to utilize Lanier’s capacity as a drinking water source will not be a part of the plan. Instead, the corps will propose that the lake revert to its original purposes for existence.

Well, after all, that plan was good enough for 1960, right? Why not just dust it off and let’s go down the same path again? It’s not like the region’s changed or anything.

Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, who had asked the corps for a status report on its plans for the operating manual, expressed the sentiments of many metro residents in succinct fashion.

“I believe it is a waste of time and resources for the Army Corps of Engineers to update the water control manuals without including water supply from Lake Lanier,” said Chambliss.

“A document that doesn’t take into account current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier as well as other points in the system is useless,” said Isakson.

A useless waste of time. We concur.

It’s already a mockery that the only operational plan for the lake is half a century old. In dealing with ongoing litigation over water, federal judge Paul Magnuson said it was “beyond comprehension” that policies for managing the lake have not been updated in more than 50 years.

But, unfortunately, it is not beyond comprehension.The corps is, after all, an arm of the federal government, which makes any proclivity it may have for ignoring common sense not only understandable but predictable.

Why would we expect that a plan 50 years in the making would incorporate the most significant issue of all when it is completed?

As Georgia’s senators have noted, the corps will be marching forward with an operational manual that will be useless the day it is completed if it does not address the need to utilize Lake Lanier to meet water needs in the metro area. Sadly, that comes as no surprise at all for those who have waited more than two decades for government officials from three states as well as the courts to reach a reasonable resolution to the lake’s status as a supplier of drinking water.