After recent heavy rains, Lake Lanier has reached its highest level in more than 40 years and its third-highest level of all time.
According to information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake, the level on Sunday, Feb. 24 reached 1,076.1 feet above sea level, more than five feet above full summer pool level of 1,071 feet.
The level is the highest since reaching 1,076.2 feet on April 5, 1977. The all-time high is 1,077.15 feet on April 14, 1964.
Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Lake Lanier Association, said on Monday it would be tough to forecast whether the level would continue to rise or fall and said it would depend on how weather impacted the state up and downstream.
“Really, the dynamic is what’s going on south of us because there’s only a certain amount they can release,” Cloud said. “If the rains hit south of us and they’re very waterlogged, that means we can’t release as much because that just increases their chance of flooding. But if the rain is more isolated to just north Georgia and middle and south Georgia didn’t get as much rain, then they can release more because there is not as much of a chance of flooding."
Lake Lanier water level record highs
• April 14, 1964: 1,077.15 feet above sea level
• April 5, 1977: 1,076.20
• Feb. 24, 2019: 1,076.13
• March 30, 1980: 1,076.05
• April 15, 1979: 1,075.99
• April 1, 1976: 1,075.75
• Dec. 31, 2015: 1,075.43
The heightened water level has led to the closure of several parks and ramps around the lake.
At West Bank Park, the water level reached the handrails of the concrete walking path surrounding the park on Monday. The park has been closed since Thursday, Feb. 21.
The water level has also caused issues for some local businesses.
“It’s a nuisance, but it’s not really causing a financial impact or anything like that,” said Brent Pearson, operations manager with TEI Industries, which owns Port Royale Marina. “It’s just a nuisance for some customers. Most of the docks are not really affected at all but some of the docks, maybe some of the original docks and some at the lower elevation areas, their parking lots are wet and the bridges where you go down to the docks.”
Pearson said TEI also owns marinas on Lake Allatoona and in other areas that are more prone to flooding “more frequently and more severely” than Lake Lanier and the company took steps to ensure the marina was prepared for the record level of 1,077 feet.
“Everything that we’ve built since 2007, when we bought it, we’ve built it with that number in mind,” he said. “We’ve kind of taken into account the future possibility that it would hit 1,077. The stuff that is being impacted is stuff that was built a long time ago where they just didn’t worry about it.”
Cloud said she, like many others with property on the lake, couldn’t even make it to her dock right now but said that didn’t stop some people from enjoying the lake.
“I really can’t even get on my boat right now. Unless I want to swim out to my dock, I can’t access my boat right now,” she said. “Honestly, not a lot of people are out boating right now because of the same thing. Most people’s ramps, their walkways are underwater, so it’s kind of hard to access your boat right now. That said, I just saw a pontoon cruise by our place a few minutes ago, and over the weekend, I saw a lot of people fishing. There was a big tournament this weekend.”
She said she has gotten reports of boats and docks floating away with the higher level but said the biggest piece of advice the association has given to those with docks is to cut the electricity going to them.
“The other big things is we told everyone to turn the power [to docks] off,” Cloud said. “The best suggestion is to turn power off from the main at the house. A lot of people can’t even get to their electrical box right now. My electrical box is in three or four feet of water. The water is almost to the outlet on the box.”
For those that do make it out onto the lake, Cloud said to be aware of what is under the water.
“There’s a lot of debris in the water,” she said. “When we get big rains like this and high levels, there’s an amazing amount of debris that gets in the water in the form of big logs and even Styrofoam comes loose from docks.”
Pearson said he was glad the high levels came during the lake’s slow season and said he hoped the levels were back to normal “by the time the season really cranks up in April or May.”
“It’s not the busy time of the year. January and February are the slowest times of the year, anyway,” he said. “So, I haven’t seen much of a change in the traffic pattern because there really isn’t that much traffic this time of the year, anyway. It’s a good time of the year to have this problem.”