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Midsummer and Lanier still above full pool
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Forsyth County News

GAINESVILLE — Looks like full pool is Lake Lanier’s home for now.

The lake has stayed consistently above 1,071 feet above sea level since April 27, when the winter full pool of 1,070 feet was still in effect.

Lanier hasn’t dipped below summer or winter full pool since April 2, and it peaked this year at 1,073.67 feet on May 7.

As of Friday night, the lake stood at 1,072.26 feet.

Data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, which manages the lake, also shows that the last time Lanier was at full pool during July was 2005.

“We’re thrilled to see it this full, and it’s beautiful,” said Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association.

Helping the lake’s cause is bountiful rainfall — 49.14 inches so far this year, or about 14 1/2 inches above normal yearly rainfall.

According to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, 10.34 inches has fallen in July alone in the Forsyth County area.

The area would be on track for normal yearly rainfall if another drop didn’t fall until Dec. 5. Last year’s total rainfall amount was 49.87 inches.

All this wet weather is a reversal of conditions just a year ago, when the lake, at one point, was about 14 feet below full pool and the corps was operating in drought mode throughout the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system, which includes Lanier.

The corps resumed normal operations on March 1, increasing the minimum flow requirement at Peachtree Creek near Vinings to 750 cubic feet per second from 650 cfs on May 1.

Flows have been high at all of the ACF’s reservoirs.

“It has been a process of getting the water out, but there has been no flooding downstream at any of the projects,” said Lisa Parker, spokeswoman at the corps’ district office in Mobile, Ala.

“In the words of Phil from [TV show] ‘Duck Dynasty,’ everyone is happy, happy, happy,” Parker said.

When the lake hits 1,073 feet or higher, “We really start seeing impacts with the boat ramps at Lanier, but right now everything is looking good,” Parker said.

Cloud said she believes the higher levels have shown that the lake can sustain a higher full pool.

“There’s really not a lot of huge problems that [have resulted from a fuller lake],” she said.

The Lake Lanier Association and others have long pushed for increasing the full pool to 1,073 feet.

“We will continue to push for it ... because when we get into drought situations, it gives us that much more of a buffer,” Cloud said.

Some marina executives have had issues with higher levels, including electrical problems, some shoreline washout and water lapping over walkways and parking areas.

Tim Rainey, the corps’ operations project manager at Lanier, has said water has put beaches at corps parks underwater.

Don Carter State Park off Lake Lanier in northern Hall County opened Monday with about 40 percent of its beach under water, said the park manager, Will Wagner.

Jason Ulseth, technical programs director for Atlanta-based Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said constantly high weekday flows through the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area have created “potentially unsafe conditions for people trying to boat or fish on the river.

“We have also received some complaints of increased riverbank erosion resulting from the high flows.”

Parker said she hasn’t heard about any erosion issues.

“As far as safety, anyone recreating on or near the water should always wear a [personal flotation device] and be aware of their surroundings,” she said.

Cloud said she has gotten several reports of debris surfacing on the lake, or “logs, wood and stuff like that that had been on the shoreline but now has washed [into the lake].”

“We have had several volunteers who have gone out and ... gotten things that were floating on top of the lake and pushed them off to the sides for us,” she said. “I think that’s going to be the focus when we get to Shore Sweep, to make sure we get all that stuff.”

Shore Sweep is an annual cleanup effort, usually in September, sponsored by Lake Lanier Association.

This year’s version may involve different tactics.

When water levels are low, workers often resort to pulling debris from the lake “that is submerged and ... you have to sort of dig [items] out of the sand,” Cloud said.

“[This year] it may be a little trickier to see some of the stuff, but once we see it, it’ll be a little bit easier to get your hands on it and actually pull it out.”