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State to Pursue Legal Action to Protect Conservation Reservoirs

Tuesday, June 20, 2006  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774

State to Pursue Legal Action to Protect Conservation Reservoirs

ATLANTA – Concerned with ongoing dry weather and the potential for dangerously low lake levels, Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that the state of Georgia is taking legal action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its management of water releases from lakes Lanier, West Point, Walter F. George and Seminole on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River system.

“Since the beginning of May, the state of Georgia has been trying to get the Corps of Engineers to listen to our concerns about the way they have been managing our conservation reservoirs in the Chattahoochee River Basin, only to be dismissed by the Corps. And to complicate matters even further, the Corps admitted this weekend to releasing more than 22 billion gallons of water from Lake Lanier by mistake,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “It is the responsibility of the corps to properly manage the basin and it has failed in its duty.”

"The Corps' plan calls for the release of more water than the endangered species would have received naturally, and that over-release of water will come at the expense of vital needs upstream,” Governor Perdue added.

Col. Pete Taylor, commander of the Corps’ Mobile District, notified the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) on Saturday that the Corps had miscalculated the amount of water stored in Lake Lanier. Taylor said the lake is at 1065.72 feet above sea level, which is actually 1.9 feet lower than the Corps previously reported. This means the Corps mistakenly released approximately 22.5 billion gallons of water from Lanier, as the region approaches what is traditionally the driest time of the year.

“Based on drought year 2000 data, that’s enough water to support the entire city of Atlanta for 118 days,” said Carol A. Couch, EPD Director. “This notification reinforces the state’s argument that the Corps’ management policies are misguided, and will place the region in a water supply crisis if left unchecked.”

Georgia will file a motion for a temporary restraining order as early as today asking that the Corps be directed to allow only the minimum necessary flow in the Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee, Florida. This legal action is intended to require the Corps to allow the lakes to refill and recover the stored water lost to downstream releases.

The Corps has been attempting to manage flow releases to support Gulf sturgeon and endangered mussels in Florida. EPD first notified the Corps in early May that the current ACF reservoir management policy would result in record low water levels in the major lakes this summer and jeopardize the region’s drinking water supply. Representatives of Alabama, Florida and Georgia participated in a two-day meeting with Corps officials and staff. EPD also has sent numerous letters requesting changes in Corps water management policy.

“These unfortunate actions and the Corps’ repeated lack of response to our concerns leaves Georgia with no alternative but to take legal action to protect our water resources,” said Governor Perdue.

Filed declaration of Wei Zeng

Filed proposed order