Corps to boost flow of Georgia water coming into dry Alabama
By Garry Mitchell
Associated Press Writer
MOBILE — The Army Corps of Engineers, under pressure from Alabama Gov. Bob Riley for drought relief, announced Friday it will increase water releases from Allatoona Lake despite a protest from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The flow from the Georgia lake at the headwaters of the
Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river system will be increased
by approximately 200 cubic feet per second, said Corps spokesman Patrick Robbins of Mobile.
At present, the Corps is
generating the equivalent of one hour of hydropower generation from Allatoona each weekday and will increase to the equivalent of two hours, Robbins said.
Allatoona, owned and operated by the Corps, runs through Cobb, Bartow and Cherokee counties on the Etowah River.
The Corps also granted Alabama Power Co. an immediate 10 percent reduction in the required minimum flow from its lakes above Montgomery that flow into the Alabama River.
The reduction cuts the flow from 4,640 cubic feet per second to about 4,175 cubic feet per second.
William Bowers, Alabama Power's vice president for environmental affairs, said the combination of actions should improve the company's ability to manage the limited amount of water available during the drought.
"But people should understand that the drought is far from over. Conditions remain serious and are likely to get worse as we head into the fall," Bowers said.
By Sept. 1, three of Alabama Power's lakes — Weiss Lake on the Coosa River and Harris
and Martin lakes on the Tallapoosa River — will be at or below their winter pool levels, which is normally not seen until early December, company officials said.
Robbins' statement from the Corps didn't mention letters from Riley and Perdue to Army Secretary Pete Geren.
Riley accused the Corps of illegally withholding water in the Georgia lake and hurting water flow downstream in Alabama.
Perdue argued the Allatoona water was neither the cause of nor the cure for Alabama's drought.
Perdue said the Corps has already released 8.4 billion gallons of water from Allatoona and nearby Lake Carters to boost the flow of water in Alabama.
The Corps says Friday's decision was in response to Alabama Power's request and not the Riley and Perdue letters to Geren.
Riley called the Corps' decision "an important step in the direction of equitable management of the water in the federal reservoirs" during the drought. Riley had said the Corps has "shortchanged" Alabama 18 billion gallons of water from Allatoona.
"Alabama understands that everyone will feel the pain of this drought, but these actions by the Corps will help to ensure that our state will not bear more than its fair share of the pain," Riley said in a statement Friday.
Perdue, attending a National Governors Association meeting in Traverse City, Mich., was not immediately available for comment.
Perdue's spokesman, Bert Brantley, said, "We're concerned about the current drought conditions that both Georgia and Alabama face. We're sympathetic to Alabama, because drought doesn't stop at the state lines."
He said Georgia will continue to work with Alabama.
"And I think there's some room in there to talk," he said. "The dialogue will continue and we'll continue to make our case. It's not the final word."
Robbins said the Corps' decision to increase the flow resulted from its biweekly drought summit conference calls with stakeholders in the river basin and other federal agencies.
"Based on new information we received during last week's conference call and rainfall that has occurred over the last week, we have extensively modeled the current extreme drought conditions over the long term," Robbins said. "We can provide this additional water without jeopardizing water supply from Allatoona Lake or depleting the limited reserve capability the lake supplies to the system."
Robbins said the increase will provide a combined release from Allatoona and Carters Lake, also in northwest Georgia, of 1,080 cubic feet per second into the Coosa River system.
"These increased releases will be monitored closely to ensure we maintain Allatoona Lake within its upper operating zone until the drought abates," said Robbins.
Allatoona and Carters are at the headwaters of the system and can only be refilled from rainfall. The other lakes downstream in Alabama can be refilled from rainfall and upstream releases.
Because of the persistent severe drought in north-central Alabama, Alabama Power had requested up to a 40 percent reduction in its minimum flow requirements in the Alabama River at Montgomery.
After comments from the public, communities, businesses, state and federal agencies as part of the Corps' environmental assessment, the Corps determined there would be no significant impact to allow up to a 20 percent reduction, but it started the reduction in flow at 10 percent.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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