Army Corps Says Some Downstream Users Can Do With Less Water

(AP) - A top agency official says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that many industrial and municipal users in Alabama and Florida could tolerate reduce flows in rivers that are at the heart of a raging water in the region.

But the deputy commander of the Corps' Mobile, Alabama, district, Major Daren Payne, says it remains unclear how much of a reduction would be accept to those users. He also says it's unclear whether downstream mussels and sturgeon protected under the Endangered Species Act also could survive.

He said during an interview that officials are finding that power plants and what he calls ``a lot of the other interests'' could operate at something less than the current flows.

Payne says the Corps will release a biological assessment for species impacts by tomorrow, laying out several options for altering the water releases from the federal reservoirs. That assessment will go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will issue its own opinion on how lower flows would affect the species.

The Corps' assessments will figure prominently in meetings among state leaders in Washington today over whether the federal government should hold back more water in Atlanta-area reservoirs to shore up the city's drinking supply.

With a historic drought gripping the region, Georgia officials have argued that the corps is ignoring a potential crisis as it continues releasing millions of gallons of water from the Atlanta area's main water source, Lake Lanier.

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