Allatoona Lake’s campgrounds are closed with the exception of this one, McKinney Campground in Bartow County. (Photo provided by the Army Corps of Engineers)

Lake Allatoona levels dropping, but more rain in forecast

Lake Allatoona’s water level is dropping, but campsites and a road remain closed with more rain on the way. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday on its Facebook page that the lake level now stands at 851.5 feet after reaching 851.6 feet overnight. 

“The lake level continues to slowly draw down dependent upon future weather condition,” the corps said

The rising waters over the weekend forced a segment of Tanyard Creek Road in south Bartow County to close, and there’s no announcement when the roadway will reopen. 

According to WSB-TV’s forecast, there’s almost a 100 percent chance of thunderstorms Friday and Saturday in Bartow County.

Jerry Fulton, the operations project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake and its surrounding properties, said Lake Allatoona’s current level is about 11 feet deeper than “full pool,” which is its ideal summer depth of 840 feet. 

Because the lake level is typically lower in the winter Fulton said the water level is about 18 feet above the normal for this time of year.

“Thankfully, it’s the off season for recreation,” Fulton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

All the lakeside campgrounds, with the exception of McKinney Campground in Bartow County, were already closed for the winter. However, 76 of McKinney’s 150 campsites are now closed due to high water covering the campsites and roads leading to these ares. Beaches and parts of boat ramps surrounding the lake are also submerged.

Located along the Etowah River, Lake Allatoona sits in Bartow and Cherokee counties on the northwestern edge of metro Atlanta.

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Throughout the rainy winter, Fulton said Allatoona has had several instances when the lake would rise by 6 to 8 feet over the course of a few days. Once the rain stops, the Corps would release water from the Allatoona Dam in Cartersville to lower the lake’s level.

Fulton said the Corps on Tuesday began releasing water through one of the dam’s generators a few hours ago, which should help lower the levels. The Corps makes the decision to release water from its dams based on downstream river conditions and predicted rainfall.

Fulton said the Corps of Engineers has to coordinate releases from Allatoona so they do not conflict with releases scheduled for Carters Dam, which serves the Oostanaula River. Water releases on the Oostanaula began this week, as levels at Carter Lake approached an all-time high, Fulton said.

“It’s all weather dependent,” he said.

When comparing Allatoona with Lanier, Fulton said both lakes receive rainwater runoff from about the same size area. However, Allatoona is a smaller lake, so it tends to rise “rather rapidly” after rainfall. For example, from Feb. 1 until March 1, Allatoona rose from 825 to 843 feet while Lanier’s waters grew from 1,071 to 1,075, according to Fulton.

Allatoona’s dramatic rise is also having an impact at marinas surrounding the lake. Danny Biebricher, the general manager of Glade Marina in Bartow County and Little River Marina in Canton, said none of the docks at the two facilities are accessible via land. Employees have to use boats to reach the 10 docks at Glade Marina and the three at Little River.

Even though Allatoona is overflowing and his marinas are taking a hit, Biebricher said the man-made lake is actually functioning as it was designed when the government created it in the 1940s: to prevent flooding in downstream communities.

“The biggest thing is we’ll do everything we can to keep docks and vessels safe and secure,” he added.

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