Lake Allatoona, which covers 12,000 acres and has 270 miles of shoreline, is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and meanders through Cobb, Cherokee and Bartow counties.
It draws nearly 9 million visitors a year and provides more than $250 million to the local economy, according to the association.
As officials such as U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), and state Reps. Calvin Hill (R-Hickory Flat), Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock) and Sean Jerguson (R-Holly Springs), among others, enjoyed a lunch on Wallace Sanford’s four-bedroom, two-story houseboat, Lake Allatoona Association board members sought to educate them on the issues of the lake.
The nonprofit’s position is that by using modern technology, the Corps could protect downstream communities from seasonal flooding and bring the lake up sooner in the spring and down later in the summer while maintaining higher levels in the summer and winter.
Board member Mike Bearden, a retired engineer who lives on the lake in Bartow County, said the plan they’re aiming for is called “2-4-6-8 Allatoona Clean.”
That slogan translates to lake water level improvements with a two-foot increase in normal summer pool level, raising the annual water levels four weeks earlier, waiting six weeks later before annual water levels are lowered and dropping water levels only nine rather than 17 feet in the winter.
“Starting July 4 they start letting it go down,” Beardon said of the Corps. “Hello? July, August, September in north Georgia are tremendously important now that we’ve got a 6 million people market for this lake.”
Gingrey, who has a daughter and son-in-law who enjoy a summer cabin on the lake with their four children, said he is supportive of the group’s efforts.
“What (association chairman Sean Nicholl) was saying was very, very informative in regard to the lake level and Mike Beardon talked about that 2-4-6-8 (plan). It makes a lot of sense,” Gingrey said. “You lower the lake too early, you’re exposing more and more of that raw, red clay to erosion and runoff and you get a lot of silt and everything in the lake.”
Gingrey said he would strive to help implement the plan by working with the Corps.
“Lake Allatoona obviously is a precious resource for this area,” Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) said. “It is a primary water source for Cobb County. I think it has great potential to provide additional long term storage capacity for generations.”
Like Gingrey, Setzler said the water level plan makes sense to him.
“You don’t pull the trigger on these things until you’ve done an adequate water supply study, but I think there’s been enough work in this area over the last couple decades that I’m persuaded it’s a viable concept,” Setzler said. “We just need to build the team to make this a reality.”
Setzler said the state had the funding to pay for such a study.
The association is also concerned about lake safety and reducing boating accidents.
Setzler said Gov. Nathan Deal has already announced his goal to support legislation in the coming session that would lower the blood alcohol content allowable for boating from .1 BAC to .08 BAC which is what the blood alcohol content level for driving an automobile is.
“I think the governor and the Legislature will pass it,” Setzler said.
The association works year-round to organize the Great Lake Allatoona Cleanup, which is scheduled for Sept. 22. The cleanup brings out more than 4,000 volunteers who remove more than 40 tons of waste each year from the lake. The group is looking for more volunteers and company sponsors to help with the massive project.
To sign up or for more information, contact Wilfrid Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org.