Heavy rains, most recently from Tropical Storm Alberto, have raised the water level of Lake Lanier passed its full pool of elevation of 1,071 feet, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said. That will necessitate water being released from Buford Dam 24 hours per day, making for dangerous conditions on the Chattahoochee River, where the water is released.
"Wading and other uses of the river will be impossible at these flows. Only experienced boaters should attempt navigation during this time," said E. Patrick Robbins, who is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"Rainfall of 6-8 inches from Tropical Storm Alberto that fell in the watershed above Lake Lanier during the last 48 hours has pushed lake levels above 1073 and an additional rise is expected," Robbins said. "We need to begin evacuating water from the lake to get back to the normal 1071 summer pool."
According to the press release, water will be released at a rate of 9,000 cubic feet per second on weekdays and reduced to 7,000 cfs on weekends for the next two weeks. The process began Wednesday afternoon. Officials estimate the lake will be back to normal summer pool level within the two-week time frame provided there is no additional rainfall.
With Lake Lanier at flood stage, officials said boaters should use caution when on the water and swimmers may want to avoid hitting the beaches due to the water quality, Operations Project Manager Tim Rainey with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told FOX 5 Atlanta.
The water release and the rains have increased the bacteria in the water to "unsafe" levels, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area said on its Facebook page.
"Use extreme caution," they said. "Swimming and recreational boating not advised."
The walking path at West Bank and the Nix Bridge boat ramp are also closed. And more boat ramps may follow depending on the increase of lake levels.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is updating releases, closures and more on their Facebook page at Facebook.com/LakeSidneyLanierUSACE.