The clock is winding down for citizens to take a stand on West Point Lake’s future.
Almost three months ago, buried in the technical addendum to a legal filing, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed adjusting the “rule curve” so that the annual fall and winter draw down of the lake would begin in September instead of November.s
This action, if it goes through, would drastically shorten the summer season of a lake that already sees its use severely affected by low levels. Northern sections of West Point Lake have been nothing but mudflats since last summer.
Local lake watchers have asked the corps for years to raise West Point Lake’s winter level, allowing it to be a year-round lake. A higher level allowing for year-round use could mean an economic impact to the area of up to $709 million. It would mean lakeside residents who have invested in docks, boats and other amenities would have full use of the lake and likely higher property values. It would mean local mom-and-pop bait and tackle and other lake-related businesses could thrive, instead of being forced to go out of business as many have since the last major drought in 2007.
But the requests, as well as others, have fallen on deaf ears.
It makes no sense whatsoever that the summer pool for West Point Lake should have any bearing on Lake Lanier’s use on the other side of Atlanta and local leaders are, to say the least, flummoxed by the plan.
Efforts by area representatives, most notably LaGrange Mayor Jeff Lukken and County Commissioner Ricky Wolfe have also gone unanswered. Lukken even made a video about the lake explaining how devastating the corps proposal would be to the area.
U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Grantville, also was not pleased to hear of the corps’ proposal.
“This new proposed change to the guide curve is both troubling and disappointing and will have a very negative economic impact on West Point Lake and the surrounding area,” he said Wednesday. “Congress has authorized West Point Lake for recreational use and that must be recognized. My staff and I have worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and local officials for many years on this issue and I will continue to advocate for West Point Lake.”
Sen. Mike Crane (R-Newnan) has been encouraged by the outpouring of support from constituents opposing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) decision to reduce West Point Lake’s “full pool” operating period by 40 percent. Sen. Crane recently sent a letter to the USACE detailing Senate District 28’s concerns for the negative economic and environmental impacts if the proposed change is implemented.
“Our office is seeking answers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the proposed rule change limiting the full pool operating time frame for West Point Lake,” said Sen. Crane. “This proposed rule change marks a distinct move in the wrong direction. I strongly believe there is a much better operating curve for West Point Lake, and we have the data to support it. This curve represents higher water levels for longer periods of time, while maintaining the flood control potential of the lake. I will continue to press for a satisfactory answer from the Corps, and I encourage others to join the petition pushing for optimum stewardship of West Point Lake.”
The U.S. Congress authorized West Point Lake as the first USACE project that allowed for recreational purposes like sport fishing and wildlife development. The USACE’s proposed change at West Point Lake will shorten the full recreational water level of 635 feet from June 1 – Sept. 1 instead of the previous time period from June 1 – Nov. 1.
Currently, West Point Lake brings more than 2.2 million visitors to the district each year for recreational purposes, which accounts for $112 million in local economic support. However, low water levels at West Point Lake over the past few years have harmed annual bass spawn, among other fish populations, and hurt the lake’s sport fishing destination reputation. In this way, the USACE can be seen as defaulting on their responsibilities to uphold the Lake’s recreational commitments.
If you would like to join the more than 1,800 concerned citizens in expressing their opposition to the corps’ proposed rule change, please sign this online petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/us-army-corps-of-engineers-change-operating-rule-curve-for-west-point-lake. Monday is the last day to sign the petition and one, if not the only option we have to change the corps’ direction regarding West Point Lake. It’s a matter of the region’s survival.