October 17, 2007 - Water levels hot topic at meeting in Blairsville, Georgia
Lake Nottely water levels were the topic of much discussion at a recent meeting of the Lake Nottely Improvement Association in Blairsville, Georgia. Over 70 people attended the meeting where they heard from Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris, Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Williams, Department of Natural Resources Ranger Kevin Dyer, and TVA representatives Chuck Bach and David Bowling.
Lake Nottely Improvement Association President Jan Boland welcomed everyone to the meeting and made introductions. Membership Officer Glen Boland explained photos in a power point presentation put together by Lyndon Sidelinger which showed various TVA reservoirs and their water levels.
Lamar Paris talked about the effects of drought conditions in Union County. "There's a drought, the lake is down, and building is down. If things don't turn around, lots more people will be hurting." He went on, " Lake Nottely is vital to our community. Thank God drinking water is not yet considered an emergency situation but we all need to pray for rain." Paris went on to thank the Lake Nottely Improvement Association for their contributions to the community including clean-up days and cash donations.
Cindy Williams said, "The lake levels have a definite impact on the business community in Union County and Blairsville, Georgia. When lake levels are low it trickles down to every part of the economy. Tourism goes down which hurts many businesses especially the marinas, cabin owners, land developers, motels, and restaurants."
Kevin Dyer talked about the new Department of Natural Resources boat that is in use on Lake Nottely and was on display at the meeting. "We put it in on the 4th of July." He added that it had been a good year with no serious accidents on Lake Nottely. When questioned about low water levels and the fish, Dyer stated, "The bass are doing fine and many stripers are being caught. It's the trout that are hurting due to higher than normal water temperatures. Low water levels are very hard on the trout population. They trout are there, but they won't bite."
Next on the agenda were Chuck Bach and David Bowling from TVA. They gave an informative slide show and overview of TVA river operations. The two men attempted to show with graphs and charts how decisions are made at the Tennessee Valley Authority. Priorities, balancing guides, minimum flows, and "lessons learned policies" were discussed.
Bach did make a promise to the members of the Lake Nottely Improvement Association. He said, "I promise that we will stay at minimum flow until we get significant rainfall. I also promise to treat all reservoirs equally." He added, "Of course, your interpretation of "equally" may not be the same as mine. Is the system perfect? No. Can it be improved? Yes." Bach went on to explain what he meant by different interpretations of equally. "A relatively shallow lake like Nottely is affected differently than a deeper reservoir although we draw out the same percentage of water."
Many questions were asked during the meeting. The TVA representatives did their best to give answers although many folks were upset with the answers. As residents see Lake Nottely disappearing into a red mud flat and grassy plain, they wonder why other lakes in the system are still apparently full of water.
Another main concern is drinking water. What if the dry conditions continue? Is drinking water supply a priority? Current conditions are the driest in 118 years. That fact is scary and very upsetting to many area citizens. Like Commissioner Paris advised, "We need to pray for rain." Significant rainfall is the only solution.
The Lake Nottely Improvement Association's mission is to maintain, protect, and enhance the quality of Lake Nottely and its surroundings for the benefit of all lake users. They work closely with the TVA, GA DNR, USFS, Union County, and the Hiawassee River Watershed Coalition in the pursuit of these goals.
The Lake Nottely Improvement Association also works with our elected officials to have the TVA conduct formal reviews of their water management policies and reservoir operation schedules. The Association has been influential in obtaining significantly higher winter time lake water levels, earlier spring fill, and later fall draw down for Lake Nottely .
The members work with the DNR and USFS annually to place fish attractors throughout Lake Nottely to improve the fish habitat. The association collaborates with the TVA on the management of the public lands surrounding Lake Nottely and has assisted the HRWC in collection of monthly water samples from many of Lake Nottely tributaries. Among other things, the association has removed hundreds of pounds of trash from the lake environment. A non-profit corporation, they hold two educational meetings each year. For more information about the Improvement Association visit www.lakenottely.org . For more information about the policies of TVA visit www.tva.gov .