TROUP COUNTY, Ga- West Point Lake is currently about 3 and 1/2 feet below where it would normally be this time of year under ideal conditions. Boat owners who dock their vessels along the lake are understandably concerned as the water levels drop. Also, boaters and swimmers might wonder what it means for their plans to use the lake this holiday weekend. The good news is that with some precautions, the Army Corps of Engineers say Memorial Day fun can proceed business as usual on West Point Lake.
Usually, visitors to West Point Lake would see a lot less red clay on the banks. The water line at West Point Lake has receded more than three feet where it would be under ideal conditions. The Army Corps of Engineers say that is because of a lack of rain across the Chattahoochee River Basin. Though heavy rains and flooding came last December, and sizable rainfall came earlier this year, West Point Lake is a man-made body of water, a reservoir designed to relieve our area of flood waters and send the excess water down stream to the Gulf of Mexico. The Corps says West Point does its job during those times of heavy rains– and sends the water to the ocean. They say if it were always full, during times of flooding, people living around the lake would be flooded. Though many residents would like to see the Corps open the dam and allow more water into the lake, federal law restricts that action. The Corps said it all has to do with federal protection of wildlife, and they tell News 3 those federal laws are very strict.
The Corps of Engineers say they do empathize and understand that boat owners who have docked their vessels at the edge of West Point are worried about the water levels. Without sizable rainfall, West Point Lake could drop even more in the coming weeks. Therefore, boat owners are being urged to keep an eye on their crafts. If the outer edge of your dock has two feet or less of water, says Ranger David Barr, you should put the boat on its trailer so you won’t have to worry about the boat getting grounded.
To protect boaters steering the currents, low areas are now being marked. One such area is the sand bar that formed between the Chattahoochee Bridge and Ringer Park, on the west side of the Chattahoochee River. New signs will point the way for boaters this weekend.
“We’ve tried to mark that sand bar the best we can with some orange buoy balls and some stakes in the ground with flagging,” Ranger Barr told News 3. He also added that if boaters come across areas they feel should be marked that have not been, they should call 706-645-2937 to report it.
Swimmers also need to remember a few safety tips First, they should never dive into any natural body of water. Since one never knows the depth of a natural body of water nor the debris that could lurk beneath the surface, a diving accident could lead to a severe injury, even paralysis. Ranger Barr has known of it happening before to swimmers who took a chance and dove into the water.
“Unfortunately, I’ve known two or three individuals who have dove into the lake here, struck their heads, and received spinal cord injuries, and are paralyzed. Very sad situation. Our lake levels do fluctuate here throughout the year,” Ranger Barr told News 3.
In addition, swimmers should remain in designated swimming areas where the average depth is around three feet. Ranger Barr says swimmers who have tried to reach buoys that have looked close who have been deceived by how far away they are– and sometimes the outcome has been tragic.
“We’ve actually had a few people drown over the past years, people trying to do that, swim out or swim back and just get tired. So we encourage people to just stay close to the shore.”