The amount of water flowing down the Chattahoochee River from Georgia into Florida is being reduced. Though it’s been a very rainy week here, the drought is still dragging on, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is beginning drought operations on the river basin.
“The unknown when you enter a drought is the duration of the drought,” said James Hathorn, chief of the water management section of the Mobile District of the Army Corps of Engineers. “And so by having water in storage allows you to meet the continued demands through that prolonged drought period.”
The Chattahoochee near Atlanta won't change much, Hathorn said, because the Corps is already releasing a minimum amount of water from Lake Lanier.
Where the level will go down is on Florida’s Apalachicola River, which starts at the state line where the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers meet.
The Corps officially adopted new rules for managing the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin at the end of March. The new water control manual allows the Corps to initiate drought operations earlier in a drought, which is why they are kicking in now.
Florida is suing Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court over these same rivers. It claims that during droughts not enough water makes it down the Apalachicola, which is harming its fisheries and natural areas. Earlier this year a representative of the court recommended denying Florida’s request for a cap on Georgia’s water use.