In a press release dated December 21, 2012, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced plans to lessen water releases from Lake Lanier’s Buford Dam from 750 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 650 cfs.
The change was made to conserve the storage of water in the lake, in response to a request from Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (GDNR) that was made back on October 15, 2012.
USACE did not act at that time or since because “conditions in the system did not permit reduced flows.” They did agree to reconsider the request monthly.
Releases actually increased during November and December, as lakes downstream began to run out of storage.
Conditions in the middle and lower basin reservoirs over the past several weeks have improved slightly. Consequently, the USACE says “releases from Lake Lanier can now be reduced to meet water quality requirements at Peachtree Creek.”
Mobile District Public Affairs Officer E. Patrick Robbins says, “Given the current basin conditions and hydrologic forecasts, the requested flow reduction from 750 cfs to 650 cfs is a prudent action to conserve system storage. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has requested the flow reductions until April 30, 2013 and USACE has agreed.”
USACE began “the lower flow criteria” on Saturday, December 22, 2012.
Officer Robbins also says, “The normal target flow of 750 cfs at Peachtree Creek is to meet minimum water quality standards in the river. The minimum flow requirement, established by Georgia DNR, is in addition to flows required for water supply from the river.”
According to the USACE memorandum, Robbins said, “Mobile District evaluated the data provided by GA DNR and determined the lower flow criteria would have no negative effect on the environment of the river and would provide the ability to conserve storage in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint rivers system. The request also included an adaptive management plan to address any changes that might occur to the environment due to the decreased flows. After evaluating the data we determined that the decreased flows would not have a negative effect on the environmental quality of the river and would allow some minimal increase in storage for the system headwaters. This increased storage, while not significant at this time, could prove very beneficial to the system if weather patterns persist. In order to avoid confusion, it’s important to note that a 100 cfs decrease will be invisible to the general public seeing releases from Buford Dam. We will still be releasing the necessary flows for water supply and system needs, which will be reduced by 100 cfs.”
This request is in line with similar requests from GA DNR during previous droughts and requests the Mobile District has approved on the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa rivers system when facing similar drought situations.