ACF Water Control Manual

Posted in: Natural Resources

For every reservoir under its control, the Corps is required to develop a water control plan that explains how the reservoir will be operated to meet the project’s various authorized purposes, such as water supply, flood control, and hydropower generation. Where there are multiple Corps reservoirs in a system, as there are in the ACF and ACT Basins, the Corps must prepare a Master Water Control Manual that includes the individual water control plans for each reservoir and that describes how the system as a whole will be operated.

The master water control manual for the ACF Basin reservoirs was last officially updated in the 1950s, before all of the reservoirs were even constructed. Although the Corps has recognized that this situation needed to be corrected, the Corps did not complete this necessary work due to a combination of litigation, the ongoing interstate negotiations, and political maneuvering in Congress. However, with the 11th Circuit’s decision and the conclusion of the ACF litigation against the Corps, the Corps is currently in the process of developing a new master water control manual for its ACF reservoirs, including Lake Lanier.

In response to the 11th Circuit’s opinion, the Corps determined that it has the legal authority to meet metro Atlanta’s water supply needs up to 705 million gallons per day. (This was the amount requested by the state of Georgia in 2000, which was expected to meet metro Atlanta’s water needs through 2030. As a result of the region’s aggressive conservation program and other factors, metro Atlanta’s projected 2030 water supply needs have decreased by 25 percent. In the updated master water control manual, the Corps is expected to make a final decision about how much water it will provide from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River downstream of the reservoir. The Corps will also prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyzing the environmental benefits and impacts that would result from its updated operating plan.

The Corps released a draft of its new master water control manual and EIS for public comment on September 30, 2015. Public comments were due on January 30, 2016.

The Corps released the final version of its new master water control manual and EIS for public comment on December 16, 2016.

The Corps signed the Record of Decision adopting the Final ACF Water Control Manual on March 30, 2017. Days later, on April 5, 2017, Alabama filed suit to challenge the Updated Manual and Final Environmental Impact Statement. On April 27, 2017, environmental groups (including the Apalachicola Riverkeeper) sued to challenge the Corps’ Updated Manual. Both cases are pending in federal district court in Washington, D.C.

Page last updated on May 1, 2017