FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A resolution in support of efforts to raise the elevation of Lake Lanier by two feet was adopted at a Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session.
In the non-binding resolution, Commissioners plead with Congress to ensure that Lake Lanier remains a water supply for more than 173,511 local residents.
Full pool at Lake Lanier is 1,071 feet, and the resolution asks that it be raised to 1,073 feet above sea level.
Ken Jarrard, Forsyth County attorney, said the environmental impacts to the county’s request are minimal compared to the costs of a newly created reservoir.
“Reservoirs are expensive,” Jarrard said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be charged with undertaking the action, if approved by Congress.
Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a similar resolution in mid-March.
The Lake Lanier Association has been pushing for the increase in full pool at Lanier since 2007.
The additional two feet would provide Georgia and downstream users with a new reservoir for 25 to 27 billion gallons of useable water storage, according to the Lanier association.
“There have been times the lake has been higher for one reason or another, and we all made it through that somehow,” said Commissioner Jim Boff. “I think as an actual number to shoot for as full pool level, it’s hard to understand why this is not a good idea.”
Commissioner Patrick Bell agreed, and called the board members’ unanimous decision “too simple.”
Chairman Brian Tam added that it “makes too much sense.”
Commissioner Pete Amos was a bit more cautious, noting that properties along the lake could be flooded by a two-foot increase in the water pool.
“There are properties the Corps would have to buy,” Amos said.
The county has had authorization from the Corps to withdraw and store water since 1973.
But a July 2009 ruling by Judge Paul Magnuson in the Tri-States litigation ruled that Lake Lanier was not authorized by Congress to provide municipal water supply for Georgia and specifically Atlanta and surrounding communities, including Forsyth. Magnuson charged Georgia, Florida and Alabama to resolve the water supply issue and obtain congressional authorization within three years.
Magnuson gave the states until July 17, 2012, to reach a water agreement. If an agreement is not reached, Georgia will have no choice but to withdraw only the amount of water it took in the 1970s.
A two-foot water level raise could provide a greater storage buffer for times of drought, like the recent two-year lack of rain that brought water levels at Lake Lanier to record lows.