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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Low-level operating plan

Published 06/06/08 (Opinion)
In its June 3 article "Federal agency OKs reducing reservoir releases" (Metro), The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' latest operating plan for the federal reservoirs in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin. It also reports that this plan would allow the corps to store up to 50 percent of the inflow into the river basin, up from the 30 percent allowed under the previous operating plan.

From these reports, some might conclude that Lake Lanier is now on its way to a quick and full recovery. Unfortunately, that conclusion would be mistaken. The reality is that the new operating plan will do little to raise the level of Lake Lanier and does not do nearly enough to prevent the reservoir from falling to dangerously low levels in the future.

The problem is that the corps' ability to use Lake Lanier and the other reservoirs in Georgia to alter flows in the Apalachicola River is severely limited by the location and size of the reservoirs within the basin. Most of the streams in the basin enter the system downstream of Buford Dam. In fact, Lake Lanier controls only 9 percent of the flow in the ACF basin above the Florida line. Flows at the Florida line are 11 times greater than in metro Atlanta, and the majority of these flows, including the entire flow of the Flint River, cannot be stored in any reservoir.

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