Even with an 80 percent chance of rain today, Troup County finds itself in the midst of an extreme drought.
West Point Lake is predicted to be near 622 feet above mean sea level this week, just two feet north of “conservation pool.”
In a report released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages West Point Lake and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin, officials say the chances are only 50-50 for above or below average rainfall for the winter months. Winter usually is the wetter season for the lake when it’s given time to refill and recharge for the spring and summer.
“Over the next two weeks very little rainfall is forecast in the ACF basin, however, we are approaching the time of year where we will typically begin seeing frontal systems move through the southeast, bringing much needed rain to the basin,” the corps’ report said.
Watchers of West Point Lake say the conditions are a great reminder that the corps also has reopened public comments on the basin-wide water control plan until Dec. 12. The water control plan has been in a years-long update process and many believe it’s the best way to ensure lasting changes in how the basin is operated.
The public comment period was reopened as part of a ruling three years ago that Lake Lanier, on the north end of the Chattahoochee basin, may be used as a water supply source for greater Atlanta.
Lake watchers here say better management in how the lake is operated could have lessened the effects of the current drought.
“The effects of the drought could have been delayed had the lake been maintained at 632.5 or higher this past spring when we were within .5 ft of being full on March 5th,” said Dick Timmerberg, director of the West Point Lake Coalition.
Timmerberg submitted the following, in part, in his own scoping comments to the corps:
“The economic damages to the West Point Lake communities and the lack of economic development due to unnecessarily low and undependable lake levels need to be assessed and stopped,” he said. Small businesses have gone bankrupt and others have been stretched to keep their doors open. Major fishing tournaments have been canceled damaging hotels, restaurants, marinas, and lake related businesses. Visitation is down and campgrounds have been closed. Land specifically set aside for a hotel, conference center, golf course, etc. has never been developed. We are blessed with a moderate climate and West Point Lake should be managed as a 52 week a year lake with the corresponding benefit of a 52 week a year lake-related economy. West Point Lake needs a dependable and reliable lake level to provide for economic development and stop the economic harm.”
Many local lake advocates say that although West Point Lake isn’t home to any endangered species, the habitat still has suffered.
“Environmental harm to West Point Lake needs to be documented,” Timmerberg said. “Due to wildly vacillating lake levels, the fish spawn has suffered significantly in three of the last five years and the quality of the fishery, specifically the bass and crappie, has declined. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of mussels have been killed threatening water quality; erosion has increased the cost of water treatment; and siltation continues to eliminate valuable storage.”
We look forward to a revised water control manual which will honor the congressional authorizations and provide for the economic benefits envisioned by Congress and promised to the taxpayers, Timmerberg said.
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