A state senator from Cumming said federal red tape likely will continue to hold up Lake Lanier Association’s primary goal of raising the lake’s full pool to 1,073 feet.
Sen. Jack Murphy, who represents District 27, gave the keynote address at the group’s annual meeting May 19 at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center in Cumming.
The association, founded in 1966, is a group of residents from the counties surrounding Lanier who are committed to a clean and full lake to enhance its economic value.
“The problem with Washington is you get something worked with one bunch of people, and then there’s another bunch of people in there to take their place with some other issue,” Murphy told the crowd of about 200.
He was referring to a recent meeting with Capitol leaders to try and persuade them to consider raising the full pool level.
Murphy also called the goal “a moving target.”
“You’ve got Judge (Paul) Magnuson’s ruling, you’ve got all those suits (in the tri-state water wars) between Georgia, Alabama and Florida, and you’re dealing with the federal government and something they own that we don’t own,” Murphy said.
Magnuson ruled in 2009 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been illegally reallocating water from Lake Lanier to meet metro Atlanta’s needs, giving leaders until July 2012 to reach an agreement before returning allocation levels to those of the 1970s.
Leaders are awaiting a ruling from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that may reverse Magnuson’s ruling.
One positive note in the challenge to raise the level, however, is Gov. Nathan Deal, Murphy said.
“The governor is absolutely on our side in this,” he said.
Murphy said Deal has the option of allowing about $3 million for study to determine the effects raising the level would have on the lake and surrounding areas.
But Murphy called such a study “ridiculous” since he said Lake Lanier has already reached 1,073 feet “more than 300 times” in its history.
“Why would we take $3 million to study something that’s already in existence?” he asked. “In my opinion, that’s ridiculous.”
Murphy said he is in complete favor of raising the level, but noted that with the “current administration in Washington” he believes the odds of such a move being approved are only “about 30-70.”
“I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it happen, but go to Washington and deal with those people and you’ll see it’s not so easy,” he said.
Tim Rainey, operations project manager at Lake Lanier, also spoke briefly during the meeting.
Rainey said the lake level has dropped about 3 feet in the last few weeks.
It’s anticipated to reach 1,068 feet and remain at that level for a while, he said.
“I’ll be ecstatically happy if we get into July at 1,068,” he said.
Attorney Clyde Morris also gave a brief overview of the water wars, and association leaders gave a review of the group’s successes over the past year.
Executive Director Joanna Cloud said some highlights included the annual Shore Sweep cleanup effort, Adopt-a-Lake program and the association’s golf tournament.
Some new programs began in the past year include an E-store, where members can purchase association merchandise and increased community awareness programs. Others included Web site updates, member socials and a Lake Lanier Association credit card.
Executive Vice President Val Perry said the association saw a downturn in revenue in 2010 but noted a “good upswing” in membership so far in 2011.
“We’ve added 116 new members since January. That’s 20 times more than we had in 2010,” he said. “So our direction is good.”
Also at the meeting, the association’s new board members were elected. They will serve until 2014.