Originally created 08/05/98

Basin plan proposed to save water

ROME, Ga. -- Georgia officials proposed Tuesday that hydroelectric generation be cut and water levels be kept higher in Allatoona and Carters lakes in northwest Georgia to help meet the area's water needs through 2050.

The plan would have little effect on communities downstream in Alabama, said Harold Reheis, one of two Georgia negotiators who presented it at a meeting with Alabama water officials in Rome.

He estimated it would reduce the average annual flow at the lower end of the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin by only 2.2 percent.

"We think it would have a very minimal effect on water use and water systems in Alabama," Mr. Reheis said. "They would still have 97.8 percent of the water to do with whatever they wish."

Allatoona and Carters lakes, both operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are at the upper end of the river basin that begins in northwest Georgia and flows into the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Ala.

It is one of two river basins involved in a water-sharing plan being worked out by Georgia, Alabama and Florida officials. The other is the Appalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin, which begins in northeast Georgia, extends along the Georgia-Alabama border and empties into Florida's Appalachicola Bay.

Alabama filed suit in 1990 over Georgia's use of the two basins, but the three states later agreed to seek a settlement out of court. The three governors signed agreements in February that gave negotiators a tight 10-month deadline to work out an allocation plan that will satisfy everyone.

Mr. Reheis said Georgia's draft plan for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa basin calls for less generation of hydroelectric power at the two northwest Georgia reservoirs, keeping them fuller year-round than they have been in the past.

"We would operate as if a drought was imminent at all times," he said. "That way your storage is in reserve so that if you do have a drought everyone's needs would be met."

Alabama plans to put its own plan on the table later, said Walter Stevenson, head of that state's water resource office.

Florida had an observer at Tuesday's meeting but did not take an active part.

In June, Georgia submitted a draft plan for the Appalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin that also called for reduced hydroelectric generation and higher water levels in that basin's reservoirs.

Alabama said the plan would adversely affect wildlife, recreation and navigation downstream.


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