Lake Allatoona water levels returning
by Geoff Folsom
March 04, 2013 12:50 AM | 7631 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Poles in Lake Allatoona show the current water level versus their highest and normal levels for this time of year.<br>Staff/Todd Hull
Poles in Lake Allatoona show the current water level versus their highest and normal levels for this time of year.
Staff/Todd Hull
A rainy winter means Lake Allatoona is seeing its water level bounce back from its annual low point quicker than normal.

According to the website for the Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, which operates the lake, Lake Allatoona had an elevation of 834.9 feet above sea level. While that is below the summer full pool elevation of 840 feet, it is more than a foot higher than the water level of a year ago and the highest level on March 2 since 2005, when it reached 835.31 feet.

“It has been a very good spring for water,” said Mike Bearden of White, a board member with the Lake Allatoona Association. “We should have a good full pool pretty quickly unless something happens with the Corps.”

Concerns continue about lake level

The Lake Allatoona Association has been at odds with the Corps practice of lowering the lake’s water level down to 823 feet in the winter. The Corps has said it lowers the lake in order to allow storage for heavier rains in the spring and summer, which keeps with Lake Allatoona’s original purpose of providing flood control for the city of Rome, located downstream on the Etowah River.

But the Lake Allatoona Association has called for several changes, including raising the 170-foot-deep lake’s full pool 2 feet to 842 feet; reaching that full pool by April 1, a month earlier than it now gets there; starting the annual drawdown in mid-October, six weeks later than it is now done and not drawing lower than 832 feet.

Even with the higher-than-normal lake level, Bearden said he simmers when he sees that the Corps has released enough water to allow the lake to drop half a foot in elevation since Thursday, when it topped 835.1 feet. He said the Corps has released 50 billion gallons of water over the past several months, which has done nothing but flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

But Bearden said a new water control manual the Corps of Engineers is working on will likely keep the same water management practices that have been in use since the lake opened more than 60 years ago. He said the only way to change those practices would be with Congressional action.

“The Etowah River is a blessing that must be used,” he said. “There are so many things we know technically and weather wise now that we didn’t before. It would not endanger Rome.”

Lake a popular draw

Still, Bearden is happy to see the lake level where it is now. Soon, he expects to see more of its 7 million annual visitors, trailing only the much-larger Lake Lanier, come in to use it for fishing, boating, picnics and other recreation.

“It’s a huge quality of life issue,” he said. “If the lake is not healthy, and at reasonable levels, that lake is nothing more than a mudflap.”

Efforts to reach Corps of Engineers representatives were not successful.

While not many people are using the lake now, the increased water means safer boating, said Commander Jim Farley of the Acworth-based Flotilla 22 of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The volunteer group patrols the lake and teaches boater safety.

“Of course, when the lake is down, there are more trees sticking up that your boat might hit,” he said. “They are old trees that your boat might go over when the water is up.”

Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood said Lake Allatoona serves as a gateway to his city when people come in from the west on Highway 92. But the gateway doesn’t look so good when all they see on the Lake Allatoona side of the road is dirt, but when they look at Lake Acworth on the right, they see a full lake.

“When the lake level is down on our side, it looks like a creek,” Allegood said.

While it was cold with snow flurries this weekend, Allegood said seeing the lake up is a positive sign.

“When the lake level is coming back up, it’s a sign that spring is right around the corner,” he said.
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