It’s time to put pen to paper again – or fingers to keyboard – and let the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers know how important West Point Lake is to the community.
The corps has reopened the “scoping” process, the public comment period to hear from residents up and down the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin, on a draft environmental impact statement for the rewrite of the water control manuals.
The water control manuals dictate how the basin is operated.
“The EIS drives the study, which is what drives the water control manual,” said Mike Criddle, director of economic development for the city of LaGrange. “If we get left behind now, the only thing that will change the water control manual is a suit in federal court.”
The rewrite of the manuals has been a years-long process and a public scoping session actually was held in LaGrange in 2009. Everyone from West Point Lake watchers to congressmen have pointed to it as the best way to ensure a lasting change in how West Point Lake is managed.
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.
Criddle shared a letter Tuesday with the West Point Lake Advisory Committee of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, outlining the city’s take on how the lake operations should be changed. The letter asks the corps to raise the lake’s winter pool from 628 feet above mean sea level to 632.5.
“That is the first recreation impact level that’s been recognized by the corps,” he said.
West Point Lake is the only lake in the system that’s congressionally authorized for recreation and sport fishing, yet dropping the lake to 628 or lower hinders those efforts, officials here say.
“It would give us a quicker refill in the spring (to raise winter pool) and it would help us keep a year-round lake,” Criddle said.
“Winter pool” levels are kept roughly from October to June.
Local officials have long fought a battle over endangered species downstream and a guaranteed flow of 5,000 cubic feet per second to provide for the species’ needs. Criddle said the 5,000 cfs equates to 3.24 billion gallons a day that’s drained from the system.
Raising winter pool also would allow West Point Lake to have more storage if water was needed downstream in an emergency, said Dick Timmerberg, West Point Lake Coalition director.
“The one thing we can agree on is that all the lakes need more storage,” he said.
Timmerberg encouraged those who offer comments to the corps to talk about the impact of low levels here.
“The small businessman is the endangered species,” he said. “The low lake levels are effecting our economy and our economic development.”
Comments made now will be added to those in 2009 and the corps will investigate issues based on the number of mentions each issue gets in the comments, Criddle said.
“They read all the comments,” he said.
To make a comment, go to:
or email email@example.com
or written comments may be mailed to Tetra Tech, Attention: ACF-WCM, 61 Saint Joseph Street, Ste. 550, Mobile, AL 36602-3521.