A major function of Lake Lanier is flood control. During times of heavy rainfall, runoff waters are stored in Lake Lanier to help prevent flooding downstream of Buford Dam. Later, after the heavy rains have subsided, floodwaters stored in the lake can be released through the Powerhouse in a more controlled manner.
It is estimated that approximately $2 billion worth of property is located in the floodplain down-stream of Lake Lanier and is protected from flooding by Buford Dam.
Lake Lanier has the floodwater storage capacity to rise 14 feet above its full level to prevent downstream flooding. The highest the lake has been to date was in 1964 when the lake reached over 6 feet above it’s full level
Most big lakes have hydropower generating machinery. Hydropower was the
very first form of electrical generation. Early dams converted the force of
falling water into electrical power. Although no longer the primary source of
energy for our homes, stores, and factories water power still plays an important
part in giving us reliable and inexpensive energy.
Most hydropower generation is "peaking" power. The generators are turned
on when there is the most, or "peak", demand for power. Air-conditioning and
heating are the power uses that often cause the peak demand for power so the
hydropower releases are usually made when temperatures are extreme.
Hydropower from Corps' lakes is sold to a number of cooperatives and munici-
pal retail suppliers of power. In order for the power to be sold the Government
must guarantee that certain minimum amounts will be available in dry periods.
These minimum generation targets along with other demands can result in declining
lake levels in droughts.
Unlike most sources of electricity, hydropower can start quickly. This makes
hydropower an important safety feature of an electric system. If other power
sources are unexpectedly interrupted, hydropower units can be started in just a
few minutes to take up the slack.
This is important to remember if you boat or fish in the rivers downstream
of hydropower dams. Although most power releases are scheduled hours or days
ahead, a power system shortage can mean that generation and water release can
start at any time.
Although Lake Lanier does not have commercial barge traffic, it plays a critical role in downstream navigation. Water stored in Lanier as well as in other downstream Corps lakes can be periodically released to increase river depths on the lower Chattahoochee River. This allows barges to navigate the river from the Gulf of Mexico to Columbus, Georgia.
Water Quality and Supply
An important function of Lake Sidney Lanier is water supply and quality. Over 3.5 million Georgians depend on water stored in the lake or from the Chattahoochee River downstream of Buford Dam.
Several surrounding counties and cities withdraw water daily from the lake. These include Gwinnett , Hall and Forsyth counties as well as the cities of Gainesville, Cumming, and Buford. In total they are allowed to withdraw a maximum of 100 million gallons a day from the lake.
Counties and cities immediately downstream of Lake Lanier also depend on water stored in Lake Lanier. They withdraw water from the Chattahoochee River which is nourished by water released from the lake through the Buford Powerhouse. These include Fulton, Cobb and Dekalb counties and the city of Atlanta. In total they are allowed to withdraw up to 377 million gallons of water a day from the river.
In addition to water supply, we have the responsibility of maintaining a minimum flow of water from Buford Dam to help assure a healthy environment for aquatic and animal life.
A significant benefit of the operation of Lake Lanier is recreation. Over 8 million people a year use the lake as their playground. Fifty-seven park areas are operated at Lake Lanier with facilities ranging from boat ramps and picnic areas to full service camp-grounds. Additionally, 10 marinas are operated on the lake, several of which are among the largest inland marinas in the nation.
With over 39,000 surface acres of water at its full level and numerous islands dotting its surface, Lake Lanier is has become one of the nation’s favorite lakes.
Recreational development is managed by the Corps along with it’s many partners which include city, county and state government as well as private enterprise. Emphasis is placed on achieving a balance between environmental protection and recreational opportunities.
Fish and Wildlife
The Corps of Engineers and the State of Georgia are responsible for developing and implementing management plans to ensure the protection and enhancement of Lake Lanier’s fish and wildlife population. This is accomplished through a variety of programs including: fish stocking, wildlife habitat improvement, hunting programs, regulatory enforcement and environmental education.
With over 39,000 surface acres of water and 18,000 acres of surrounding public lands, Lanier provides beneficial habitat for many game and non-game animal species. This includes deer, ducks, fox, raccoon, bobcat and numerous songbirds.