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More Water For Two Drought-Plagued Lakes, But Cutbacks Next Week With AM-Heat Wave Bjt

July 24, 1986

ATLANTA (AP) _ To help fill two drought-parched lakes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday stepped up releases from the Chattahoochee River system, but warned industries to stockpile supplies, because starting next week low water levels will mean a ban on barge traffic.

Usually, water flows seven hours each day from Lake Lanier - which is part of the river system - from northeast Georgia to the Alabama border and down to the Gulf of Mexico. Starting Thursday, the corps increased that to 10 hours a day.

But beginning Aug. 1, the releases will be cut to only four hours a day, and they’ll stay that way ″until it rains,″ said Lt. Col. Roy Prince. The river downstream will be too low to accommodate barges, he said.

The water flow from Lake Lanier is being increased for the next week because Lakes Walter F. George and West Point, both downstream on the Chattahoochee, already are at their minimum levels, said Beau Hanna, a hydraulic engineer for the corps’ Mobile District.

Corps officials said water supplies in Atlanta, LaGrange and Columbus - three Georgia cities which depend on the river system for their water - are not in danger of drying up.

However, four or five commercial barges will have to stop transporting supplies to industries along the river, said Prince, a member of the Drought Management Committee, which announced the decision at a news conference.

The panel, which has representatives from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and the Corps of Engineers, was set up last year to seek ways to ease the effects of the drought which has plagued the Southeast.

″We don’t want a barge to get stuck in the river,″ Prince said. ″They may be carrying gas or oil, and that would be a hazardous situation.″

″We are basically in new territory,″ he said. ″This drought is appreciably different than the 1981 drought. We are in the first year of what may turn out to be a two- to three-year drought.″

The cities most affected by the water cutback will be LaGrange and Columbus, the corps said. Also affected will be several power plants, the Alabama Kraft Paper Co. near Eufaula, Ala., and the Great Southern Paper Co. in southwest Georgia.

Although the plants were constructed to be able to operate at corps- establish ed minimum water levels, Alabama Kraft is constructing a dam around its plant and will install a barge with a pump in case the river falls below that minimum, the corps officials said.

Electric companies have been notified they will need to buy power from sources other than the corps’ hydroelectric dams on the river, Prince said.

″Hopefully, we won’t put anyone out of business,″ he said.

After the four-hour water releases begin next week, the lake’s level will drop about six inches per week if there is no significant rainfall, he said.

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