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State's Lake Martin 8 feet below normal

LAKE MARTIN (AP) — Sam Evans can't wait until he can spend summer weekends cruising Lake Martin on his family's pontoon boat, but Mother Nature isn't cooperating.

Lake Martin is about 8 feet below its usual summer level of 490 feet because winter, which is typically Alabama's rainy season, has been anything but.

With central Alabama about 5 inches below normal rainfall for the year, some homes and cabins on the lake have boat docks and houses sitting high and dry, not bobbing on the lake's surface.

"Our dock is half in and half out of the water. We can't use it unless the lake comes up another 4 or 5 feet," said Evans, 47, who lives and works in Montgomery.

Alabama Power Co. owns Martin Dam, which regulates the 40,000-acre lake on the Tallapoosa River.

It usually lowers the lake about 10 feet in the winter, which allows it to absorb the expected heavy rains of winter. It also allows property owners to perform maintenance on docks, boathouses and retaining walls.

"We are doing all we can to bring Martin up to full pool, but it doesn't look good," said Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the power company. "The dry weather has affected all the lakes on the Coosa-Tallapoosa River system."

The Army Corps of Engineers requires regular releases of water from the dams to maintain the environmental and navigation needs of the river systems.

Lake Jordan, Martin's smaller sister to the west, is in better shape. Jordan, on the Coosa, is a "run of the river" reservoir and much less prone to level fluctuations.

The long-range weather forecast doesn't hold much promise for relief in the coming weeks. North Alabama is about 7 inches below normal rainfall for the year, according to the National Weather Service. That means lakes upstream from Martin and Jordan also are dealing with low-water levels. That's very different from this time last year, when heavier than normal rains in February and early March meant flood concerns for some areas.

"There's nothing in the next 10 days or so that shows promise for any widespread showers," said Michael Garrison, meteorologist with the NWS office in Calera.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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