Congressman Collins talks lake management
By Michael Isom Staff writer
The Hartwell Sun, June 8, 2017
There was standing room only in the Adult Learning Center of the Hart County Library on Monday as Ninth District Congressman Doug Collins held a town hall meeting to discuss the water management plan for Lake Hartwell and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ involvement. Collins stated one of the things he hoped to accomplish in the town hall meeting was gathering input from the crowd as to what people would like to see in the water management plan going forward. Lake Lanier was mentioned There was standing room only in the Adult Learning Center of the Hart County Library on Monday as Ninth District Congressman Doug Collins held a town hall meeting to discuss the water management plan for Lake Hartwell and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ involvement. Collins stated one of the things he hoped to accomplish in the town hall meeting was gathering input from the crowd as to what people would like to see in the water management plan going forward. Lake Lanier was mentioned as a reference several times to showcase the differences between other Corps lakes and Lake Hartwell.
For instance, dock permits for Lake Hartwell take around three to four weeks, whereas permits for Lake Lanier can take upwards of six to nine months.
“I would rather see the Corps more consolidated, if you would, under a single management plan,” said Collins. “There are things that you can do on Hartwell that you can’t do on Lanier, and vice versa.”
Collins said one thing his team is looking at is bringing economic development into, at least, the basic considerations for the Corps in regards to water being released from the dam. According to Collins, that has become a n i s s u e f o r L a k e Hartwell in particular.
“I think the other issue with water management is making sure that the priorities are not only the endangered species, not only the flood levels, which are all very important, but also giving at least some merit or some wage, if you would, for economic development perspective,” said Collins.
He continued to explain the Corps’ stance on lake levels.
“You have to understand this, and this is where I’ll give the corps the leeway that I can as far as we do this, is understand that their first and foremost thought is not your dock,” said Collins. “Their first and foremost thought is not your boat. Their first and foremost thought is not your swimming or fishing capabilities. Their first and foremost thought is how are we doing water downstream.”
When the floor was opened for public comments and questions, one constituent asked what could be done to modify the amount of water sent downstream for the lake’s winter pool.
“Would congress be able to change their ruling on dropping six or eight feet for winter pool to modify that to say two feet?” the constituent asked.
“That’s going to be where it actually gets difficult, and I’ll tell you why,” responded Collins. “You’re never going to get flood control out of this.”
Collins went on to say it gets congress into a micro management situation with the Corps and doesn’t allow fluctuation of water levels.
“The biggest of the problems here is that anything affecting the Corps, not only do they fight a lot of times, but they also have nationwide respect,” said Collins. “It’s not just the Corps in Hartwell. It’s not just the southeastern district.”
Collins attributed that fact with the slow process of making any major changes to Corps lakes.
Different interpretations within the Corps was brought up as an issue.
One constituent told Collins that a ranger with the Corps had allowed him take down some trees that were endangering his house, but a previous ranger would not let him remove the trees in the past.
Collins acknowledged all concerns from those in attendance but reiterated the number one issue pertaining to the water sent downstream.
“There’s got to be a balance in some of these issues,” said Collins. “Is flood control the predominant one in a changed environment?”
Members of Collins’ team took notes on all concerns expressed by attendees for the purpose of compiling them for future discussions on the subject.
According to Collins’ communications director, Jessica Andrews, he was very happy with the turnout for the meeting and appreciates all input as a way to better serve the people of the district.