Corps Starts Public Meetings on Water Release from Lake Lanier

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) - Starting tomorrow, the U-S Army Corps of Engineers will seek the public's input in three states involved in protracted water wars, Georgia, Alabama and Florida, as it studies how much water can be withdrawn from Lake Lanier.

The Corps was greatly criticized in June when it accidentally released 22 billion gallons of water from the lake, a major source of drinking water for the fast-growing Atlanta metropolitan area.

The first meeting, to be held at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville, will be followed by sessions in Atlanta, LaGrange, Dothan, Alabama, and a last one on December sixth in Tallahassee, Florida. All are areas that are greatly impacted by the water release.

The Corps is preparing an environmental impact statement on proposed water storage contracts in Lake Lanier.

Critics have been accusing the Corps of operating with outdated information and releasing too much water downstream to sustain endangered mussels and sturgeons in Florida's Apalachicola River, at the expense of residents farther north.

Georgia has said the Corps is sending too much water to Florida. But Florida contends it needs even more water to protect the Gulf sturgeon fish and rare freshwater mussels. Alabama wants a steady supply of water to meet its industrial needs, including a nuclear power plant near Dothan.

A Corps spokeswoman said the statement could change how Lake
Lanier is managed.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)