Finally, full: Lanier water level to hit 1,071 feet

LAKE LANIER - For the first time in four years, Lake Lanier is expected to reach full pool.

The lake's elevation was 1,070.67 feet above sea level Tuesday and was projected to reach 1,071.10 feet above sea level today, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mobile (Ala.) District said.

The last time the lake was at full pool - 1,071 feet above sea level - was Sept. 6, 2005, according to a Corps database.

"We are thrilled that the lake is full," said Kit Dunlap, vice chairwoman of the 1071 Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to maintaining Lake Lanier's water level. "To really be full is just so exciting."

One year ago today, in the midst of a drought, Lanier measured 1,053.52 feet above sea level, more than 17 feet below full pool. Lake levels continued to drop the following month, averaging 1,051.66 in November. By Dec. 8, the lake was 20 feet below full pool.

In mid-December, the lake levels started to climb. By April, Lanier's water level had increased by about 10 feet. In June, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declared the drought that had gripped most of the state since late 2007 was over.

Last month's historic rainfall caused flooding throughout most of the region but also pushed more water into the lake. A month ago, Lanier's level was 1,064.22. In less than two weeks, it rose more than two feet.

With runoff from recent rain and more precipitation in the forecast, the Corps expects more water to reach the lake.

Dunlap, also the president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said reaching full pool has improved the attitudes of area business owners.

Jim Maran, president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, said a full lake is a positive thing.

"To get to have Lake Lanier at 1,071 is an achievement we all desire," he said. "Having Lake Lanier full and usable by everyone is a positive thing in the community."

The lake is an economic development engine for metro Atlanta, Maran said. In addition to being a key element in the region's viability, he said the lake is also a beautiful reservoir.

"When the lake is full, it's a very, very pretty body of water," he said. "It's attractiveness adds to the quality of life in Gwinnett County."

Now that the lake is full, the region should work to maintain the lake's level, Dunlap said.

"We don't want just because we have a full lake and rain right now for our conservation to end," Dunlap said.

For more information about the 1071 Coalition, visit www.1071coalition.org.