Weiss Lake Improvement Association

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The Board of WLIA meets on the 3rd Monday of every month at 5:00 pm at the Cherokee County Administration Building, 260 Cedar Bluff Road, Centre, AL 35960

WLIA on Corps of Engineers Manual

The fight to keep Weiss Lake more full may be coming to close soon, and one local advocate isn’t overly optimistic about a favorable outcome for those, like her, who want to see more water in wintertime.
“We had a meeting with the Corps of Engineers January 22 at the Weiss Dam powerhouse,” Weiss Lake Improvement Association (WLIA) President Carolyn Landrem told The Post last week.
Those in attendance included Gen. David Turner of the South Atlantic Division of the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and Col. Jon Chytka of the Mobile district. Both are regional ACOE commanders with responsibility over the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) river basin, which includes Weiss Lake.
“They wanted to come and ‘put some boots on the ground,’ as they told us,” Landrem said. “We had a really good meeting, discussed a lot of different topics.”

The core issue for Landrem and WLIA is the water level in Weiss, a man-made reservoir constructed from 1958-1961 and operated by Alabama Power. Landrem and other local officials with ties to tourism want the winter drawdown reduced from six feet to three feet in order to maintain lakefront property values, increase off-season tourism and enhance the long-term health of the lake.

The six-foot winter drawdown is mandated by the Corps’s ACT Master Water Control Manual, originally written in the 1950s. Over the past several years, the Corps has been rewriting the manual. On Oct. 31, 2014, the rewritten manual was submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval – several years behind schedule.

“We had an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the ACT manual during the meeting at Weiss Dam, and also the winter pool level,” Landrem said. “The general and the colonel were both there to listen, they told us, and they took copious notes.”

By federal rule, the ACOE must allow public comments on the new manual before it becomes operational. That period ends Feb. 5, and Landrem said she and her group have already submitted their comments, which include an official request for the three-foot winter drawdown. As currently written, the new ACT operations manual does not allow for a reduced winter drawdown in Weiss.

She said the meeting with the Army officials who will eventually decide the fate of WLIA’s winter level request was a chance to repeat the plea, in person. Unfortunately, she’s not certain if the official or in-person appeals will have any effect – at least in the short term.

“The general did say that the manual will [go into effect] by February 15,” Landrem said. “But he did leave the door open. He said they have to get the manual in place because it has been a long time coming. But he said the manual can be ‘amended and updated’ as things are brought to their attention.”

“For that reason I think it is important that people take the time to let them know how they feel about the winter level before the Feb. 5 deadline,” Landrem said. “The quantity of water we get will have a huge long-term impact on the quality of water we have in Weiss Lake.”

Landrem said she hopes the new Army officials will be able to put “new eyes” and use new technology that did not exist when the manual was written over 60 years ago to find ways to keep Weiss a little more full in winter and still obey their mandate to provide downstream flood protection.

“I feel like the possibility still exists,” Landrem said. “I know the Corps and Alabama Power recently held a meeting where a plan to go ahead with the reduced winter drawdown was discussed.”

Public requests regarding Weiss Lake’s winter level can be submitted to the Corps of Engineers via email at act-wcm@usace.army.mil.


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