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Revising guidelines for Lake Lanier
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Forsyth County News
The federal government does many, many inexplicable things that defy any sort of logical examination. Taxpayer supported anti-smoking campaigns and taxpayer supported subsidies for tobacco farmers come immediately to mind.

Somewhere on that list of things we will never understand is the fact that the government has not revised the operations manual for Lake Lanier in 50 years.

Think about the economic and demographic changes that have taken place in the last half a century, not just in the metro Atlanta area, but across the state and nation.

And yet the operational rules for the major source of water for one of the most dynamic regions in the country haven’t been revised since it was first implemented not long after the completion of Buford Dam.

Pete Taylor, chief of staff for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, last week updated members of the Lake Lanier Associa-tion on the effort to draft a revised operations manual.

The consensus is a new operational guide is long overdue — but isn’t going to be finished soon.

Completion of the manual is scheduled to be a four-year project, and the corps has finished the first year. Cost for the effort is expected to be $8 million, some of which is coming from economic stimulus funds.

As outrageous as the cost and timetable might seem, things could be worse. Taylor said a similar effort for the Missouri River took 16 years to complete at a cost of some $35 million.

Of course the true cost and completion date of the Lake Lanier manual is anyone’s guess, since the manner in which the lake is supposed to operate is already the subject of at least seven lawsuits, with a hearing on one of the legal questions set for Monday in Jacksonville.

Since the “tri-state water wars” have pitted Georgia, Florida and Alabama at legal odds over the future of Lanier for nearly 20 years without any resolution, the prospect of a new operating manual being completed in only three more years seems teasingly, and overly, optimistic.

In his address last week, Taylor admitted that judicial decisions in pending litigation could force a major detour in the corps movement toward finishing new operational procedures.

Barring reverse direction from the courts, there’s some optimism that in the not too distant future officials will have in hand an operational guide based on the needs of the 21st century, rather than those of half a century in the past.

We can only hope that is the case.