Commission endorses increase of lake level

LAWRENCEVILLE - Fifty years after the construction of Lake Lanier helped spur Gwinnett's astronomical growth, county leaders want to inject some growth into the lake.

The county commission voted Tuesday to encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study raising the lake's full pool level from 1,071 feet above sea level to 1,073 feet.

Both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly have approved similar resolutions supporting the idea, which came from the Lake Lanier Association, a consortium of area homeowners.

The move would gradually add another 25 billion gallons of water to the reservoir, which provides water for much of metro Atlanta.

"This change would be a win-win situation with many benefits and very low costs," Chairman Charles Bannister said. "It would not only improve recreation, fishing and power generation, it would also help ensure adequate water for communities and endangered species downstream."

Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, who represents the three miles of lake shoreline in Gwinnett, said a fuller lake would make the scenery more attractive for homeowners and boating and fishing enthusiasts.

"I think it'll be wonderful, especially for anyone who lives along the lake," he said, adding that Lanier has been invaluable to the county's development. "I think Lake Lanier is the key to Gwinnett. If you don't have water, you don't have anything."

Gwinnett Water Resources Director Frank Stephens said increasing the level of the lake could also improve water quality.

"The upper end of the lake has not been meeting water quality standards for chlorophyll, and we believe this additional water could help dilute increasing phosphorus deposits from fertilizers and other non-point source pollution," he said.