Water was everywhere, yet no boats could leave the Little River Marina in Cherokee County on Thursday.
Ironically, they were trapped by water.
“We can’t afford any more rain,” marina operations manager Rick Spokes said of Lake Allatoona, a “flood control” reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“There was so much water downstream, we have to hold it in Allatoona until … water levels have decreased,” said Corps spokesman Pat Robbins. “It’s [the lake] doing its job.”
He said without the lake, the rains and subsequent flooding more than a week ago could have raised the water level of the Etowah River by more than 30 feet as it passed Rome and by 15.5 feet at Kingston in the next county south.
The Etowah River and the Coosa River are still full so Allatoona remains about 12 feet above the “full pool” mark of 840 feet above sea level.
Spokes said the 60-year-old lake was the highest it’s been in the 15 years he has worked at the marina.
Water covers about 300 feet of parking lot from where boats are ordinarily launched. It has receded about a foot since the rain stopped.
Water also covers the docks leading to the 143 boat slips. The walkway to the first set of slips emerges from the water a a full football field away from the shore.
“There’s no feasible way you can get people [to their boats]," Spokes said.
But earlier in the day, a boat owner did get to his boat to check its condition because Spokes took him out in a skiff.
And despite the news coverage of last week’s flooding, Spokes said he is getting calls from boat owners wanting to go out. He said they are surprised to learn the lake is too high to reach the boats.
Corps spokesman Robbins said the agency expected water levels to return to normal in about two weeks, “of course that’s with no more rain.”
“We’ll start getting it out as quick as we can, but we don’t want to cause problems for anyone downstream,” Robbins said.
Spokes thinks it will be more than two weeks before the lake returns to normal.
The dam that created the lake has been open “24/7,” Spokes said, and still the water level was down only slightly because what is coming in is replacing what is going out.
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