Officials say drought is here to stay

LAWRENCEVILLE - A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official confirmed Thursday what the state's top climatologist said last week - the metro area's drought is here to stay.

"Areas of the Southeast region may be facing drought conditions unprecedented in their scope and severity," Corps spokesman E. Patrick Robbins said in a statement. "Everyone involved and affected will have to be part of the solution to get through these difficult times."

Robbins said over the course of the next five weeks, Lake Lanier could drop another 1.3 feet from its current level. As of Friday morning, the Atlanta-area reservoir was 14.2 feet below full pool. Robbins said the winter and spring rains filled the lakes of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, except for Lake Lanier.

"Since then, rainfall has been sporadic throughout the ACF system, which has led to very low inflows into the lakes and the river system," he said.

Robbins said that because of the declining inflows and also because of increased lake evaporation - sometimes as much as 0.2 inches per day - augmentation from the lakes will be required to maintain minimum flows in the Chattahoochee and Apalachiola Rivers unless weather conditions change.

Robbins said the Corps will continue to monitor the conditions carefully, but also added that all people should try to conserve whatever water they can.

In another twist to the ongoing drought, Florida's Department of Environment Protection announced Friday it would file suit against the Corps for its management practices of the ACF River Basin, which Florida said violates the Endangered Species Act. Specifically mentioned in the suit were three types of mussels.

Upon receiving the news that Florida would file suit, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle released a statement saying Georgia was extremely disappointed.

"I find it unconscionable that the state of Florida would choose to elevate the water needs of the bankclimber and fat threeridge mussel over the needs of millions of human beings in Georgia," Cagle said. "It is beyond my

comprehension why any state would want to treat a neighboring state in such a manner, and I will do everything possible to protect the water needs of Georgians."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.