A delegation from the Georgia General Assembly, led by state Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming, was in Washington on Wednesday to meet with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding Lake Lanier.
The delegation, all Republicans, included state Reps. Tom Knox and Mark Hamilton, both of Cumming, and John Heard of Lawrenceville, as well as state Sens. Lee Hawkins of Gainesville and Ross Tolleson of Perry.
They met with Assistant Secretary of the Army John Paul Woodley Jr., along with Georgia's U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss and U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville.
"I thought the meeting was helpful," said Deal, whose district includes most of Forsyth County. "It was very informative, and I think some questions they had were answered.
"It was a chance on the part of the legislators to voice the concerns of their constituents of how important this issue is and to find out where we were on the water manual updates."
Deal said the corps indicated it was about four months into a three-year process on the manuals.
Hawkins said the meeting, which took place in Chambliss’ office, was a success.
"I think we articulated our concerns about the economic impact in our area and discussed Florida’s position and our position," Hawkins said. "It was a productive meeting, and they listened to us."
Murphy, who led the delegation to Capitol Hill, said the drought is draining the region in many ways.
"This drought has not only cost us water, but it has cost us jobs," Murphy said. " We will continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to manage the basins in a way that benefits all users."
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who appointed the senators for the trip, said the state’s message was articulated in Washington.
"It is critical that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fully understand the reality of the water needs in our state, and I am grateful our delegation delivered a strong message today," said Cagle, who is from Hall County.
"The current lake condition has resulted in very real economic hardships in North Georgia and the fact remains that we are experiencing one of the worst droughts in Georgia’s history."
Cagle said the drought has hurt home values and pushed some businesses to the brink of bankruptcy.
During the past legislative session, the House and Senate passed a resolution urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin a study of the costs and effects of raising the full pool for Lake Lanier.