Lake levels affect Labor Day activities
by Matt Shinall
Sep 02, 2011 | 2347 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
All campgrounds operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are booked solid through the Labor Day weekend and all signs point to a busy holiday, but due to dry weather and low lake levels, some activities may not be available.

Nearly seven feet below normal summer pool, Lake Allatoona is reaching levels that could affect holiday plans. Sandy beaches across the county include restricted swimming areas, which are now approaching dry ground, with only inches left in some designated swimming sites.

"With schools back in session, it's usually a three-day busy weekend; people will usually be out picnicking and swimming and boating," said Linda Hartsfield, USACE Chief Ranger of Recreation for Lake Allatoona. "However, this year with the lake elevations, I still anticipate people coming out but they will not be able to participate in all the activities they're use to.

"Don't come out to the lake planning on swimming because there are no beaches due to low water levels. ... A lot of our beaches are already less than a foot deep."

Normal summer pool is 840 feet mean sea level. Thursday, lake elevation was at 833.25 msl, six and three-quarters of a foot below the normal. Hartsfield compared the current level to that of July Fourth, another of the lake's busiest holiday's, when elevation was less than a foot shy of normal pool at 839.22 msl.

For lakegoers, whether boating or swimming, Hartsfield warned not to base judgments on previous experiences on the water.

"Due to low water levels, please be aware of any underwater obstructions like rocks, tree stumps and any floating debris. Pay very close attention to navigational signs because where they traveled back on Memorial Day or even the Fourth of July could be a sand bar or they could be running over a boulder or a tree stump," she said.

Other than beaches, the Corps of Engineers has also had to close Tanyard Boat Ramp in Acworth as well as ramps in other counties. Department of Natural Resources Conservation Sgt. Mike Barr warned boaters and swimmers of dangers associated with low lake levels.

"Near Victoria Landing and the Harbor Town Marina, the main channel goes around an island." Barr said. "[Boaters] think they've got plenty of water to run in and ignore the hazard poles. We've already had boats get stuck on that this year.

"With water conditions as they are, if someone dives in and impacts an object they can't see ... they could be hurt, they could be paralyzed."

Lake Allatoona, with its proximity to Atlanta and Interstate 75, regularly falls in the top three most-visited Corps of Engineers' lakes nationwide, many times coming in first. Hartsfield emphasized the importance of such a resource but also for the need to take precautions, especially during the lake's third-busiest holiday.

"It's a busy holiday. Our camping will be full. It's the summer wind-down. Of course with the economy and gas prices, more people will be staying home to recreate, and it's a good thing that we have a playground close by for folks," Hartsfield said.