published Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Rain pushes Lake Lanier to flood stage

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Heavy rainfall over the weekend has brought Lake Lanier to flood stage and the extra water is being released downstream, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Officials will try redistributing extra water to get the lake back to 1,070 feet above sea level, Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Patrick Robbins told the Gainesville Times for a story published Tuesday.

At 1,073.05 feet, the reservoir is about 3 feet over its typical winter water level. Park officials have said the extra water has led to the closure of some park locations and boat ramps.

"Basically the water's high enough that those ramps are mostly submerged," Lake Lanier Assistant Operations Project Manager Chris Lovelady said. "We just want people to be careful."

The extra water is being released at the Buford Dam, and officials are monitoring conditions to ensure the release doesn't lead to flooding elsewhere, Robbins said.

The extra water hasn't caused any problems yet, which leads Executive Director of the nonprofit Lake Lanier Association, Joanna Cloud, to say the lake's standard pool should just be raised to 1,073 feet above sea level.

"A full pool of 1,073 brings us an additional 26 billion gallons of fresh water supply," she said, adding that the lake has risen to above 1,073 feet more than 300 times in the past. Having that amount of extra water added to metro Atlanta's current supply may be worth considering from an economic standpoint, Cloud said, adding that simply raising the lake's full pool could stave off the need to build another reservoir.

The lake's maximum flood pool is 1,085 feet and the highest water level to be recorded at the lake was 1,077 feet in 1964.

The regulation of the water in Lake Lanier is a major part of a water dispute that involves Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

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