In response, the lake association began composing a letter stating its objections to the request.
“[We are composing] a very heavy hitting and strong objection to the state of Georgia’s request under cover of the governor’s letter back in January, that, in effect, that will result in 5 [feet] less water in this lake during July and August,” said Mike Bearden, a LAA board member. “That’s the focus today. We’re announcing that ... and we’re going to talk a little about a very long set of answers that we gave to the Corps of Engineers in the spring to their official water control manual update that laid out why Allatoona is being given the short shrift.”
In particular, Bearden said, the corps is not considering the economic impact the lake has on its surrounding counties in terms of recreation.
“What they say is, on average, ‘Don’t worry about it, guys, we’re on the average going to impact recreation by 9 percent.’ When you cut down into the details of that, on the average of this lake, 9 percent means during July, August and September, the lake, Allatoona Creek leg that you cross on I-75 south of here and the Little River Moon Marina up there will be turned into [basins], they’ll just be streams,” he said. “There will not be a lake in the future. What they want to do is basically pump the water to Douglas County, Paulding County and Gwinnett County and not pay for it. ...
“What we’re saying is, it’s $2 billion worth of water that’s being dumped without being used. We need to find ways to store it and use it instead of ignoring it. What they want to do is just take it out during times of the year.”
Bearden believed the total amount lost would come to $2 billion.
For Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor, this year was his first tour with the organization. He said he looked forward to hearing the group’s opinions and information on the issues. However, he already appreciated the economic impact the lake has had on Bartow County, and believed it assists the county in attracting business investments.
“I’m very interested in what these guys have to say, of course. One of our concerns is water levels. We would like to see the corps leave the water level up later in the year and maybe shorten the time span as far as the months go as far as when the lake is actually down,” Taylor said. “We firmly believe that helps the whole economy of our area as far as the use of the lake goes. If people can stretch the season, so to speak, and make recreation available through the lake water levels. Of course ... the most important part of Lake Allatoona, I think, is for our drinking water supply. That’s always important and the city of Cartersville and Bartow County gets a major portion of our water from Lake Allatoona and that’s very important and clean water. ...
“But as far as this lake being important to our community, it’s just a very, very valuable resource. I mean not just drinking water and recreation, it adds to the appeal of Bartow, Cobb and Cherokee counties as far as economic development. It helps there. It’s just another tool we’ve got as far as recruiting commercial and industrial [businesses].”
Other local officials who received an invitation included Emerson Mayor Al Pallone, former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk and Senate District 14 candidate Matt Laughridge. Invitations were also extended to Rep. Phil Gingrey and Sen. Johnny Isakson.
LAA Board Chairman Sean Nicholl said, although the corps’ current method of maintaining the lake was working this year, it was only because of the heavier than usual rainfall. Under normal circumstances, he believed, the lake would be unusable for recreation. If the governor’s request was approved, he said the lake would be even lower and water quality would suffer.
“We recommend that the state support the establishment of reservoirs that can be filled during wet, wintry rainy months. ... It could be [short] of 5 feet in the middle of summer. Well, normally, in a lot of recent years we’ve had very little use of the lake by July 4, or definitely by the middle of July, and that’s not counting drought years. It would be an incredible impact to water quality and the quality of life,” he said.