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Update to lake manual on the fast track

Corps official: Legal battle may speed up water control plan

POSTED: June 10, 2009 4:00 a.m.

BUFORD — Jerry Barnes, pulled from retirement out of his home in the scenic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, first thought the task of modernizing the water control plan for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin would take three years.

  

“I added six months and $2 million to that when I realized we were being sued,” he told a lake advocacy group meeting Wednesday night, referring to litigation involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  

The schedule now might change drastically.

  

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson of Minnesota, who is presiding over legal entanglements between Florida, Georgia and Alabama over water from Lake Lanier, was “not a big fan when (he was told) the corps was going to take until 2012 to finish this,” Barnes said.

  

“I do expect that he will have something to say about the schedule and may in fact direct that it be shortened,” he said. “The corps is looking at ways to shorten the schedule.”

  

Barnes was speaking at a public forum sponsored by the 1071 Coalition, a nonprofit group formed last year with the main focus of advocating healthy water levels be maintained at Lanier.

  

The forum was held at Lake Lanier Islands’ Legacy Lodge and Conference Center.

  

Area lake advocates have pushed hard for the manual update, as the current manual is 50 years old and the basin — particularly with Atlanta’s sprawling growth —has changed drastically over the years.

  

Barnes told the group that, with the manual update, they were “not attempting to resolve every issue in the (tri-state) controversy.

  

“We’re just trying to get a manual put together that says here is how we are going to operate the lakes as a system, given varying patterns of rainfall and drought that could occur in different proportions in that system.”

  

He wrapped his presentation up by saying, “When the governors decide to get back together and resolve this, it will make the life of the corps eminently easier to resolve this (manual) and make revisions.”

  

“[The manual] can be changed,” Barnes said. “It’s not cast in stone.”

  

Magnuson could render his document in a 100-page ruling or longer by late summer, Barnes said.

  

The audience also heard an update on an economic impact study being led by Bleakly Advisory Group, a Sandy Springs consulting firm.

  

The coalition has budgeted $200,000 for the study and is working to raise money for it and other endeavors.

  

“We’ve got a way to go to pay for that,” the group’s vice chairwoman, Kit Dunlap, has said. “We’ve gotten a lot of private donations and some public support, too, because (the issue is) important to everybody.”

  

Dunlap also is president and chief executive officer of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

  

“We want to keep the attention on Lake Lanier,” she said. “Everybody’s attention span goes away in a hurry when the lake gets to full (pool). We just want to keep that focus right there.”

  

Chamber of commerce executives from Forsyth and Gwinnett counties also are on the coalition’s board.

  

The panel also includes a number of marina owners and real estate firms that specialize in lake properties.

 

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