The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority (CCMWA) and others rely on water stored in Allatoona Lake to meet their municipal and industrial water supply needs. CCMWA withdraws water stored in Allatoona Lake under a storage contract that it signed in 1963, which authorizes CCMWA to store up to 13,140 acre-feet of water in the reservoir. (An acre-foot is the volume of water required to cover one acre in water one foot deep, or about 325,851 gallons.)
In 1981, CCMWA requested to purchase additional storage in Allatoona Lake, asking the Corps to proceed “as rapidly as possible” on the request. The Corps completed its review of CCMWA’s request in 1989. At that time, the Corps proposed to “reallocate” 34,864 acre-feet of storage in Allatoona Lake so that it could be used by CCMWA and others for water supply storage. The Corps’ recommendation was based on the findings of its study report and its determination that there would “be no significant environmental impacts” as a result.
Alabama sued the Corps in 1990 to block it from finalizing the recommendation. Like the ACF litigation filed by Alabama, Florida, and others, Alabama’s claims in the ACT Basin were ultimately dismissed in 2012. However, there has been no action by the Corps on CCMWA’s request since it was submitted in 1981.
In the intervening years, CCMWA and its retail customers have invested heavily in projects designed to reduce water supply needs through conservation, and to increase the amount of water CCMWA can store in Allatoona Lake. These projects minimize environmental impacts and maximize the use of existing infrastructure by augmenting the amount of water flowing into CCMWA’s storage space in the reservoir.
For example, each day about 17 million gallons of highly treated, reclaimed water is collected and returned to Allatoona Lake for reuse. Likewise, CCMWA has constructed the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir upstream of Allatoona Lake. This project will release water for withdrawal by CCMWA to supplement its Allatoona Lake supplies. However, CCMWA needs action from the Corps before these measures can be fully implemented.
In November 2014, the Corps released an updated master water control manual and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the ACT Basin. Unfortunately, the updated manual and EIS fail to address CCMWA’s request for additional storage and many other issues related to water supply.
As the Corps has recognized, populations and the demand for water resources in the ACT Basin have changed substantially in the years since the federal reservoirs were authorized and constructed. Thus, the Corps is required to update its master water control manual for the ACT Basin to take into account changes in demands due to years of growth and development. However, despite the Corps’ acknowledgement that separate action on these water supply issues is needed, the Corps formally adopted the updated manual in May 2015 without correcting these deficiencies.
Recent Lawsuit Win: In November 2014, the State of Georgia, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and CCMWA filed suit in federal court in Georgia against the Corps to compel the Corps to act on water supply issues at Allatoona Lake. Oral argument was heard in August of 2017. In September 2017, the district court ruled in the Georgia Parties’ favor, finding that the Corps unlawfully failed to respond to the Georgia Parties’ water supply requests at Allatoona Lake. The district court then ordered the Corps to respond to the water supply requests by March 2021. The next step is for the Corps to conduct a reallocation study and decide on the water supply requests. The case (the “Failure to Act Lawsuit”) was State of Georgia v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-3593 (N.D. Ga. filed Nov. 7, 2014).
The Corps has completed working through a reallocation study to evaluate the water supply requests. In November 2020, the Final Feasibility Report and Integrated Supplemental EIS for the Allatoona Lake Water Supply Storage Reallocation Study and Updates to the Weiss and Logan Martin Reservoirs Project Water Control Manuals in the ACT River Basin was released. This Final EIS includes granting Georgia’s Water Supply Request for additional storage to serve CCMWA and the City of Cartersville. The next step is for the Corps to address final comments and then issue a Record of Decision.
Ongoing Lawsuit: Separately, the State of Alabama and Alabama Power have also filed suit against the Corps in federal court in Washington, D.C. to challenge the Corps’ 2015 master manual and final EIS. These suits challenge the Corps’ compliance with NEPA, as well the operational rules adopted by the Corps. The consolidated case (the “Alabama Parties’ Lawsuit”) is Alabama et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-696 (D.D.C. filed May 7, 2015). The cities of Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama have also intervened in this case.