Atlanta loses Lake Lanier
Last Friday, July 17th, Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been improperly tapping Lake Lanier as a municipal water source for Atlanta. I have yet to read the entire decision, but according to newspaper accounts it hinged on the idea that current use of the reservoir deviates from the initial purpose of impounding federally protected waters of the Chattahoochee River.
The Lake Lanier case involved the state governments of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. It was tried before a judge from the federal district of Minnesota, presumably to insure impartiality. Judge Magnuson's decision has implications for many other localities where lakes originally constructed for flood control or irrigation have been converted to municipal water supplies or some other purpose than that for which the waters were originally impounded.
Many environmentalists are already applauding this decision, particularly in Alabama and Florida. However, it is likely that Georgia will now instead move forward on new dam construction. New dams, particularly if built within the "ACF" (Appalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint) system, could have even more deleterious impacts on both local Georgia environments and downstream fisheries and hydrology.