Amid drought, lake committee ready to defend lake level
By Jennifer Shrader
Members of the West Point Lake Advisory Committee said Thursday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did a good job of managing the lake during the exceptional drought of the last six months.
“Overall, I’m impressed we’re only as low as we are,” said Troup County Engineer James Emery, the chairman of the committee. “What they have done seems to be equitable.”
That hasn’t always been the case for relations between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local lake watchers, who have suffered through previous droughts to see the lake drained to benefit other interests in the Chattahoochee-Flint River basin. The basin includes Lake Lanier north of Atlanta and Lake Eufaula in Alabama, and the Chattahoochee River runs to the Gulf of Mexico through Florida. Florida and Atlanta have frequently competed for water from West Point Lake.
The lake currently is only about three or four feet below its normal winter pool level of 630 feet, and two rounds of rainfall this week that brought four inches of rain total were expected to increase the level by about a foot, although the entire region is still in an extreme drought.
With that in mind, the committee turned its attention to the updated water control plan for the Chattahoochee River basin. The final draft of the plan, in the works for years, could be released by the end of this month and the committee wants the community to be ready to react to its contents. The plan will dictate how the lake is managed for years to come.
The committee must decide how to properly protest anything it sees as unjust when the region is in the middle of an exceptional drought.
“It’s hard to say anything during a drought,” said LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton.
Previous drafts of the plan have indicated the lake will operate by the same “Rule Curve” for lake levels in summer and winter as it has been managed. Lake officials had previously asked the winter pool level to be raised to 632 feet, which Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is said to support.
LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce President Page Estes said the chamber has previously been involved in publicity campaigns for the lake that involved officials from the county and all three cities. Those same officials will be called on again once the water plan is released.
“We need to be prepared to rally,” she said.
Jennifer Shrader is editor of the LaGrange News. She may be reached at Jennifer.Shrader@lagrangenews.com or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2153.