It’s high time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revised its water control manuals to allow West Point Lake to have higher lake levels during the summer months. The corps has been working on a revision since 2007, but they’re dragging their feet.
Higher lake levels would have a positive impact to Troup County’s economy. In late 2006, concerned community leaders from the city of LaGrange, Troup County, the West Point Lake Advisory Council, LaGrange Troup County Chamber of Commerce, the Callaway Foundation, Greater Valley (Ala.) Chamber of Commerce, West Point Lake Coalition came together to support the Securing Optimal Sustainability Campaign, raising money for fund an economic impact study for West Point Lake.
The results of the study highlighted the corps’ 1973 master plan for the lake which stated “West Point Lake was developed as a demonstration project for the purpose of providing a wider variety of recreational facilities and opportunities for the public than normally provided at corps lakes.”
The study, conducted by the Annapolis, Md., firm Basile Brauman Prost & Associates, Inc. stated that, in 2006, the lake provided a economic impact of $153.7 million on the local economy based on lake level of 630 feet mean sea level now and below. The study says that millions of dollars were lost due to unstable lake levels caused in large part by flawed operating plans administered by the corps. It the lake had sustained levels of 630 to 635 feet MSL, the economic impact to West Georgia and East Alabama could be as much as $419.3 million.
The corps said on March 29 that West Point Lake is two feet above normal for this time of year, compared to other federal reservoirs, after benefiting from March rains. Local leaders say, however, that the lake is actually a foot below its historical average. It should be at 632.7 feet above MSL.
On Wednesday, the lake was at 631.41. By May 4, the lake is projected to drop to 630.8 feet. Winter pool is 628, summer pool – which the lake should be rising to – is 635.
“The corps says they want to use ‘adaptive management,’ but every time they get the opportunity, they revert to the guide curve,” said Dick Timmerberg, executive director of the West Point Lake Coalition in a April 5 article in LaGrange Daily News.
The earlier spring meant an early spawn for fish. Any time the lake is lowered, it hurts the spawn because there’s no cover for the young fish that have just hatched, leaving them vulnerable to be eaten by larger fish. That affects the fish population.
Also, unstable water levels affect the temperature of the lake which can also damage the fish population.
The Chattahoochee River and the Flint River combine to form the Apalachicola River at the Florida line and a minimum flow of 5,000 cubic feet per second is required there to sustain endangered and protected species of mussels and sturgeon. Local lake leaders long have complained that West Point Lake is the “workhorse,” providing the bulk of that required flow at the expense of economic interests here.
The corps needs to finish adjusting its flow manuals so the lake will maintain a sustainable level and become the recreation destination it was originally designated to be.