The Corps is updating the water control plans and manuals for the ACF Basin in order to improve operations to reflect changed conditions since the manuals were last developed. As explained in a November 2009Federal RegisterNotice of Intent, 74 FR 59965 (November 19, 2009), and in the March 2010 Updated Scoping Report, the Corps previously narrowed the scope of the EIS for the WCM update to exclude from consideration certain water supply operations at the Buford Dam/Lake Lanier project that would have violated a July 2009 district court order. In June 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated that 2009 district court order and directed the Corps to determine its legal authority to operate the Buford Dam/Lake Lanier Project to accommodate water supply withdrawals. SeeIn re Tri-State Water Rights Litigation,644 F.3d 1160 (11th Cir. 2011). In compliance with the Eleventh Circuit's order, the Chief Counsel issued a legal opinion on June 25, 2012 (available athttp://www.sam.usace.army.mil/2012ACF_legalopinion.pdf), concluding that the Corps has the legal authority to accommodate both current and increased levels of water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier and downstream at Atlanta. The Chief Counsel's legal opinion does not dictate what operational decisions will be made, with regard to water supply or otherwise, but it does establish certain analytical principles that will be taken into account as the Corps makes its final operational decisions at the conclusion of the WCM update process. Such decisions will be made in light of all applicable authorities, and will be guided by the legal principles articulated in the Chief Counsel's June 25, 2012 opinion.
In light of this legal opinion and the Eleventh Circuit's ruling, it is appropriate for the Corps to consider a broader range of water supply alternatives, including both current levels of water supply withdrawals and increased withdrawals, from Lake Lanier and downstream at Atlanta, that have been determined to be within the Corps' legal authority to implement. All other scoping aspects described in the March 2010 Updated Scoping Report remain the same. Information on the ACF River Basin and the Master Water Control Manual Update process will be posted on the Mobile District Web page as it becomes available:http://www.sam.usace.army.mil.
Steven J. Roemhildt,
Colonel, Corps of Engineers, District Commander.