Even after rain, Lake Lanier 10+ feet below full pool - CBS46 News

Even after rain, Lake Lanier 10+ feet below full pool

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Lake Lanier rip rap project (WGCL) Lake Lanier rip rap project (WGCL)
LAKE LANIER (CBS46) -

Even after heavy rains over it Tuesday and Wednesday, Lake Lanier, the source of much of our drinking water, remains more than 10 feet below full pool. 

New Islands are emerging that would normally be completely under water.

And while the expanding shoreline is inconvenient for people whose docks are now stuck on dry land, it's a good opportunity to work on a long overdue project: stopping erosion from stealing our drinking water.

As the Lake Lanier Association's Joanna Cloud explains, the reservoir holds 15 percent less water than it did when it was built 60 years ago.

Over time, waves have washed away dirt from the shoreline and pulled it into the lake bed, causing the overall depth of the lake to rise and therefore hold less water.

"Storage capacity is being displaced as the dirt goes away. This particular shoreline only appears to be about 10 feet high, but we have some areas as high as 20-25 feet, and it's completely concave at this point, because so much has eroded away," said Cloud.

Marine Specialties is tackling a $275,000 project, expected to last through March. They are reinforcing the borders of four islands with piles of rocks called "rip rap," designed to hold looser dirt in place.

Keeping the islands from disappearing is also good for wildlife. Lake Lanier Association board member Tom Vivelo describes changes he's seen over time.

"This little island we're looking at, which is now a peninsula because the lake is so low, was all trees 20 years ago. We counted at one time, 30 great blue herons that lived in the trees, but now there's only one scraggly tree left."

With the water so low, it's a rare opportunity for crews to reinforce the islands. The contractor is doing the work right now at a discount.

"Some areas are a lot easier to get to during the drought because we can drive our equipment onto the beach. We're not having to work off the gate," said Dave Bahn of Marine Specialties.

Maintaining the lake's capacity is also important because we don't know what will come out of the dispute over water between Georgia and Florida, and the more water we have to share, the better.

The project is being paid for in part with Gwinnett and Hall County tax money, but the rest is coming from the Chantal and Tommy Bagwell Foundation.

Copyright 2016 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. 

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