With the public comment period over, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at completing within two years a document that will govern water usage in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin.
The corps received 35 comments, mostly from government agencies, in a “scoping” process that ended this month.
That’s compared to 819 the corps received in an initial sweep, one that occurred before a federal judge’s July ruling that withdrawal for drinking water wasn’t one of the authorized uses of Lake Lanier, which is part of the ACF basin.
But those who sent in comments in the previous public-comment period, which included five public meetings in 2008, didn’t have to resubmit.
Comments have covered such topics as water supply and quality, recreation, commercial use and wildlife, said corps spokeswoman Lisa Coghlan.
Late last year, the corps reopened the public-comment process in light of Judge Paul Magnuson’s ruling, which said Georgia would lose municipal access to Lanier in three years if it couldn’t push a settlement through Congress authorizing usage.
Governors of the three states locked in the dispute over water — Georgia, Alabama and Florida — since have agreed to resolve the matter before their terms are over at the end of this year.
The public comments will be considered in preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement for the manuals, corps officials have said.
The water control manuals spell out how their reservoirs should be managed, including how much water is released.
The environmental document should be completed in late 2011, Coghlan said.
Area lake advocates have pushed hard for the update, as the current manual is 50 years old and the basin, particularly with Atlanta’s sprawling growth, has changed drastically over the years.
The Lake Lanier Association submitted a three-page letter on Jan. 2 to the corps stating that “recreation has always been and remains today an authorized purpose.”
The group also is pushing for special care of the lake.
“Lake Lanier alone cannot provide enough water to be the sole source of augmentation flows to meet the Apalachicola River’s required minimum flow ... without being depleted,” the letter states.
Another area group, 1071 Coalition, which formed when the two-year drought nearly drained the lake to a historic low, didn’t submit any comments, said its president, Alex Laidlaw.
“We had at the beginning of the process .. and didn’t really see where additional comments were going to get us,” he said last week.