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Let it rain: Forsyth exiting drought as Lake Lanier levels rise a foot in May
Mary Alice Park
This ramp at Mary Alice Park remains beached, though recent rains have increased the levels of the lake by more than a foot in the last month. According to officials, all boat ramps are usable when the levels reach 1,066. As of Tuesday, the level was at 1,064.24.

Though the last week of nearly constant rain may be dampening the spirits of many Forsyth County residents, Lake Lanier is one happy recipient after its water levels have increased by more than a foot since May 1.

On Tuesday, the lake was recorded at 1,064.24 feet above sea level, the highest it has been all year.

While that number still marks Lanier’s lowest water level in the last five years — full pool is considered 1,071 feet — according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ low water level plan, the rain has mitigated a number of lake recreation problems.

Corps data shows when the lake is below 1,066 feet, recreation becomes impacted, though it is usually not until the lake reaches 1,063 feet or lower that parts become unusable.

Lake levels graph
While Lake Lanier is still at its lowest point in the last five years, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' low water level plan, recent rainfall has mitigated a number of lake recreation problems.
“Designated [swim] areas are to be used between 1,073 to 1,062 [feet],” said Nick Baggett, Corps natural resource manager. “Beach areas start to become marginally usable below 1,066 and swim lines are set over 1,064. At 1,063 [feet], most designated beach areas are unusable and navigational hazards become more numerous.

“At 1,066 [feet], all Corps boat ramps are usable and at 1,063, some boat ramps become unusable.”

While the increasing water levels are good news, it is not just Lanier the recent precipitation has positively affected.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of May 23, Forsyth County was no longer in a full force drought, classified only as “abnormally dry,” which the monitor says is “used for areas showing dryness but not yet in drought, or for areas recovering from drought.”

As recently as May 16, parts of the county were considered to be in a “moderate drought” or D1 classification, prompting local officials to urge residents to still be aware of their water usage.

Cherokee County and most of Hall County has also been reduced to a D0 classification, with the northern portion of Hall and virtually all of Dawson County considered a D1 classification.

Only a handful of extreme south and southeast Georgia counties remain in extreme drought (D3).

Mary Alice Park
Beach areas, like the one shown here at Mary Alice Park, start to become marginally usable below 1,066 and swim lines are set over 1,064.

“The [Georgia Environmental Protection Division] closely monitors several drought indicators, which guide the state’s response to drought, including rainfall, volume of water in selected streams, groundwater levels, reservoir levels, short-term precipitation forecasts and soil moisture,” said Bennett Weinstein, manager of the EPD’s water supply program. “While this recent precipitation is very helpful, regional water supplies do remain low, which is why EPD and local water systems continue to advise a cautious approach to discretionary water use.

As of May 2, Forysth County remains in a Level 2 Drought Response, which enacts certain restrictions on outdoor water use and urges water conservation in and out of the home.

“That said,” Bennett said,  “EPD is constantly monitoring and evaluating and will adjust accordingly.”