Corps warns county on lake withdrawals

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ACWORTH, Ga. --- The Army Corps of Engineers on Monday warned a suburban Atlanta water provider that it could be drawing too much water out of a federal reservoir, pleasing Alabama officials who have been calling for more downstream releases from the lake.

Col. Byron Jorns said an analysis by the corps suggests the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority pumped too much water from Lake Allatoona, one of several Georgia reservoirs at the heart of a three-state water fight. The authority has 10 days to respond.

"We sent them a letter saying we think they might be exceeding their amounts, and we asked for some follow-up and investigating to see what the real numbers are," corps Maj. Daren Payne said.

The authority can withdraw as much as 34.5 million gallons a day from Allatoona, the Atlanta region's secondary water source, according to a pact first signed in 1963.

Allatoona is more than 18 feet below its normal level. Some of its tributaries, such as Clark Creek in the Acworth area, are dry.

Though the authority exceeds those numbers -- taking about 48 million gallons a day -- Director Glenn Page said the figures don't account for the 16 million gallons of treated sewage the authority returns to the lake each day.

"We disagree with that analysis as we have all along," he said. "We'll be preparing a response to state our disagreement."

Monday's announcement could mean more restrictions from Cobb County's water authority, which provides water to more than 800,000 people in five counties.

Maj. Payne said the corps' analysis used "preliminary" figures, and corps officials are awaiting the county's response before deciding whether to act.

Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions wrote in a letter to the corps' commanding general that though the agency has "shown favoritism to Georgia," they were "very pleased" to learn of the government's analysis.

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