The authority for water control operations for USACE-owned and operated reservoir projects is contained in legislative authorization acts and referenced project documents. The public laws and project documents contain provisions for the development of a Master Water Control Manual and specific project Water Control Manuals and appropriate revisions and updates. A number of congressional authorizations apply to all federal reservoir projects, including the following:
- Flood Control Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-534)
- Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act of 1958 (P.L. 85-624)
- Water Supply Act of 1958 (P.L. 85-500)
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (P.L. 92-500)
- Endangered Species Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-205)
- Water Resource Development Acts
Without a comprehensive updated Master Water Control Manual, USACE runs the risk of, among other things, not providing sufficient water where needed (when needed to meet the authorized project purposes and the needs of stakeholders, whether domestic, municipal or industrial); adversely affecting endangered species; expending water resources too early, which reduces the ability to maintain the system to meet project purposes and the needs of stakeholders; and flooding people and facilities that are now within flood plains. This risk is due to changing conditions within the basin and at federal reservoirs which, if not accounted for, can affect water management decisions.
Hydrologists must consider and evaluate many factors to determine the appropriate management of water at each lake. In addition to the constraints of the authorized project purposes, they must consider power contract commitments, hydrologic and climatologic factors, downstream lake and basin wide conditions, potential threats of flood and drought, and lake levels.
The current Master Water Control Manual for the ACF River Basin was completed in 1958 and does not include Water Control Manuals for the West Point, Walter F. George, or George W. Andrews projects. Manuals were developed for individual projects in the ACF River Basin as they came on line or as operations changed to accommodate changing conditions within the system. EISs for the reservoir projects in the basin were prepared in the 1970s. The existing Water Control Manuals do not address water supply operations.
There was a need to develop an updated ACF Water Control Plan that incorporated the overall system management, and a draft was proposed in 1989 as part of the Lake Lanier post-authorization change report. This Water Control Plan described current system operations at that time but was never finalized because of litigation filed by the state of Alabama objecting to current and proposed changes to operations in the basin. However, USACE has been operating the ACF system under the draft 1989 Water Control Plan on an interim basis pending update of the Master Manual and individual project Water Control Manuals. The Water Control Manuals specific to each federal reservoir in the ACF River Basin are prepared as appendices to the Master Water Control Manual. The current project manuals are listed below.
- Appendix A - Jim Woodruff Reservoir
- Appendix B - Buford Dam
- Appendix C - Walter F. George Dam
- Appendix D - George W. Andrews Reservoir
- Appendix E - West Point Reservoir
The individual manuals typically outline the regulation schedules for each project, including operating criteria, guidelines, and rule curves as well as specifications for storage and releases from the reservoirs. The Water Control Manuals also outline the coordination protocol and data collection, management, and dissemination associated with routine and specific water management activities (such as flood control operations or drought contingency operations). Updates or revisions to the Water Control Manuals are typically integrated with the NEPA public involvement and documentation process.
The operational flexibility and discretion written into the manuals is necessary to balance the water management needs for the numerous and often competing authorized project purposes at each individual project with basin-wide water resource needs for areas throughout the ACF River Basin. Project operations must also be able to adapt to seasonal and inter-annual variations in flow and climatic conditions. Additional plans may also be developed for drought contingency operations or to respond to other emergency conditions.