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Corps working to meet a court order on manual
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The water control manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin has bobbed like a yo-yo in recent years.

And though one deadline looms for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the document's long-awaited completion isn't near.

In May 2009, the corps was moving along to update the manual, which had been Lake Lanier's standard operating procedure since the 1950s.

It had taken public comments and had buttoned down for a four-year completion process.

Then, two months later, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that water storage was not an authorized use of Lake Lanier and governments using the reservoir, including Gainesville, would have to cut back or stop pulling water from the lake in three years.

He basically gave Georgia three years to find another source of water, have Congress reauthorize Lanier for drinking water or negotiate a water-sharing agreement with Florida and Alabama.

"Our manuals were proceeding and getting very close to being completed based on that (ruling), which said no water supply," said Pat Robbins, spokesman for the corps' Mobile District.

Georgia's Republican senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, entered the fray in July 2010 when it appeared the corps would lean strictly on Magnuson's ruling.

Both pressed for the corps to include the effects of current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier in the updated manual.

"A document that doesn't take (those issues) into account ... is useless," Isakson said.

Earlier this year, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed Magnuson's ruling, saying that water supply was an originally intended authorized use.

The 11th Circuit has told the corps "to determine the limits" of that authorized use, Robbins said. "And that's what we're in the process of doing now. The manuals will be updated once that legal process is completed."

The corps' initial work must be completed in June, but "there's no timeline on the manual," he added.

As far as what steps the corps will take between now and then, Robbins declined comment, saying that is a "litigation issue."

Val Perry, executive vice president of Lake Lanier Association, said he was disappointed to learn that completing the manual could take a long time.

"If they spent two years to write a (manual) without water supply in it, and now they've got to write it again and put water supply back in ... it shouldn't take two (more) years to do it all over again," Perry said.

"I'd like to see the whole thing done by the middle to end of next year."