Local leaders called for residents to inundate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with complaints after the agency has proposed a change that would drastically shorten West Point Lake’s summer season.
The corps has proposed changing the “guide curve” that dictates water levels for winter and summer seasons. The corps wants to begin the draw down to winter pool in September instead of November, effectively shortening what summer season West Point Lake users have amidst already low lake levels.
“If this decision is made, it will put our already vulnerable lake in a much, much tougher position,” said Ricky Wolfe, chairman of the Troup County Commission.
“Summer pool” for the lake is 635 feet above mean sea level. Winter pool is 628.
Wolfe, LaGrange Mayor Jeff Lukken and the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce are calling on residents to contact the corps between now and Jan. 14 to let them know the change should not be made. Jan. 14 ends the “scoping period,” the period the corps had opened to take comments on changes to the water control manual for the entire basin.
The group had a press conference on the ever-expanding banks of West Point Lake on Tuesday to make the call to action.
“This is after 4 inches of rain,” Lukken said, looking out on the desolate mudflats. “You should have seen it two days ago.”
The lake has been hovering around the 622 mark in the recent drought and local leaders already had been asking the corps to raise winter pool to 632 feet, the first level where recreation is impacted. Keeping the lake higher would allow for its use year round and greatly increase its economic impact on the region.
Lukken and Wolfe said the change first was proposed as part of the legal wranglings after a ruling that lets Lake Lanier be used as a drinking water supply to metro Atlanta. The federal court asked the corps to come up with a plan of how that would work and lowering West Point’s rule curve was part of the proposal.
The two said it was “extremely disappointing” after years of communication with the corps to find out about the proposal indirectly.
Local lake watchers were told to check the legal proceedings several weeks ago, which is how the proposal was discovered.
“This was done for reasons we don’t understand,” Lukken said. “This benefits no one.”
Wolfe said the change, if made permanent as part of the water control plan, would lower the lake’s capacity by 40 percent.
“If you think it looks bad now, it’s going to get 40 percent worse,” he said.
The current low level also could force the cancellation of the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, scheduled to return to West Point Lake in May.
“Our reputation is being destroyed and once that’s gone you don’t get it back,” Wolfe said.
The city, the county and the chamber have gone as far as to prepare a letter to send to the corps that residents may sign. Copies of the letter are available at LaGrange City Hall, the Troup County Government Center and the chamber office. Later this week, the letter will be available online at those agencies’ websites.
The leaders also plan to meet with the corps in Washington, D.C. sometime in the next 90 days to discuss the issue.
Lukken and Wolfe said they’d informed the corps of Tuesday’s event and the corps’ only advice was to “galvanize the community” against the change.
“They are paying attention to what’s happening here today,” Lukken said.