New Lake Martin license in effect today
New license raises lake level during winter, allows for extension of summer level when there is sufficient water

Alabama Power’s new, 30-year license to operate Martin Dam takes effect today. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the new license on Dec. 17, 2015. After a 30-day review period, Alabama Power has accepted the license.

Today, Alabama Power is required to begin implementing the new operating plan for the Martin reservoir. It includes a new winter pool of up to 484 feet mean sea level (msl) (483 Martin Datum), which is 3 feet higher than the old level.

The new license also allows the company to extend the summer water level at the lake into the fall, if there is sufficient water available. The company also plans several recreational enhancements around the lake as part of the new license.

The Alabama Rivers Alliance and American Rivers, Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Environmental Protection Division have filed requests with FERC for a rehearing on the new license. Despite their requests, Alabama Power is required to begin implementing the new license immediately.

Alabama Power has been working with stakeholders, local leaders and multiple public agencies since 2006 on relicensing the Lake Martin hydroelectric project. In April, experts at FERC issued a final Environmental Impact Statement that recommended the higher winter level and a conditional extension of the summer level.

Under the new license, the company will be permitted to maintain the lake up to the higher summer level of 491 feet msl (490 Martin Datum) for six weeks longer in the early fall – through mid-October – when certain criteria are met each year. Under the old license, the company has lowered the lake level beginning Sept. 1.

A historical analysis by the company indicates that, on average, conditions for a higher fall elevation at Lake Martin exist only about once every four years.

One change that will also occur with the new Lake Martin license is the way lake level data is published.  Historically, the lake level at Martin has been published as Martin Datum, while under the new license, the lake level will be published as mean sea level.

In the 1920s, when land was being purchased for the Martin Project, a locally established reference point known as Martin Datum was utilized for determining elevations associated with both the dam and the lake. Today, most figures, drawings and references are shown in mean sea level, which FERC also uses as its standard.

It’s very simple to convert from Martin Datum to mean sea level, which is 1 foot higher.  For example, Lake Martin’s normal summer elevation is 490 Martin Datum. Going forward, this same lake level will be shown as 491 msl. Similarly, Lake Martin’s old winter elevation was 480 Martin Datum. The new winter level is 3 feet higher (483 Martin Datum) but will be published from now on as 484 msl.

The Lake Martin pages on the Shorelines mobile app and website are expected to transition from Martin Datum to msl within the next two weeks. Until the transition is complete, the level of Lake Martin will still be published in the old Martin Datum. The shift in reference only applies to Lake Martin information.

The new Lake Martin license also includes provisions for the company to make significant recreational and environmental enhancements around the reservoir. The enhancements are expected to include the protection of additional undeveloped lands around the lake and improvements at shoreline recreational areas.

Click the following link and select the Microsoft Word, “DOCX” file to view the license:

For more information about Alabama Power’s reservoirs, visit