Due to recent heavy rains and high water levels at Lake Lanier, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering has closed several designated swim areas due to the agency’s high-water action plan.
The Army Corps has closed 17 of the 18 designated swim areas they manage. The only one that remains open is the one located at the Ducket Mill Campground in Gainesville. They may remain closed for a couple weeks or longer.
As of Monday morning, the water levels at Lake Lanier rose to more than three feet above its full pool elevation of 1,072 feet above sea level.
The Army Corps is now continuously releasing water to lower the lake level, causing a rise in water levels and swift currents in the Chattahoochee River downstream.
High water levels and turbulent flows have made also made it unsafe to swim or boat in the Chattahoochee River, according to the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Corps.
The Army Corps said it is also unsafe to swim or boat in the Chattahoochee River due to high water levels for up to two weeks or longer. Go to the National Park Service’s Chattahoochee River web site to check on whether a water safety alert is in place.
Also due to safety concerns, the Army Corps has also made the decision to close the Lower Pool Park which is located directly below Buford Dam on Lake Lanier.
Nicholas Baggett, U.S Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resource Manager, said it could be another couple of weeks, or even longer before the swim areas are re-opened.
“Our lake level is dependent on a lot of variables, like how much it rains within Lake Lanier’s watershed or if we have flooding downstream. Lake Lanier is part of a long river system going all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, with other Corps lakes, locks, and dams along the way. How much and when we release is dependent on many factors,” said Baggett.
Even on a day with Lake Lanier’s aqua-blue water is shimmering and calm, Bagget urged extra caution for boaters after a stretch of heavy rains, urging people to keep an eye out for floating debris and other hazards.
Under current conditions, open bodies of water change where debris is floating and areas become deeper. Open bodies of water can have unpredictable and strong currents, and sudden drop-offs, and even experienced swimmers may struggle in the colder water of lakes and rivers.
Last week in Monroe County, emergency responders rescued two teens who were stuck in a fast-moving Georgia river at High Falls State Park in Monroe County. A man drowned at Lake Lanier on Saturday after he and some friends were swimming back to the shore at Lanier Park. And on Monday, authorities continued searching for two teenagers who likely drowned in the waters of a swollen creek in Oconee County last week.
Here are some things to know if you’re headed out to the water:
— Use designated swimming and recreational areas whenever possible. Professionals have assessed the area, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules.
— Teach your child that swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. Make sure they are aware of challenges such as limited visibility, currents and undertow.
— Designate a “water watcher.” This person should not be reading or texting. They should never take their eyes off the children. Adults should take turns and have a designated person watching at all times.
— Drowning can happen quickly and quietly. You might expect a drowning person to splash or yell for help. Sometimes, people quietly slip beneath the water.
— Use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in and around open water. Get a life jacket (also called a personal flotation device or PFD) that is appropriate for a person’s weight.