The Lake Lanier/Buford Dam renaming project announced in early March has been paused, according to the Mobile District office of the US Army Corps of Engineers. However, the Lake Lanier Association is urging its members and constituents to contact officials to weigh in by contacting elected federal officials as well as the Corps.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is pausing any actions related to project renaming pending further guidance from the Department of the Army,” said Dustin Gautney, public affairs officer with the Mobile District.
The name-change announcement included various federal properties across the country following the release of a report commissioned by Congress in response to the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
Following procedure, the report was adopted by the US Secretary of the Army, who originally issued a directive that part of the process be completed by January 1, 2024. With the official pause, no further action is being taken at this time.
“The initial announcement set January 1, 2024, as the date for feedback and suggestions of names and comments to be submitted,” said Clyde Morris, vice president of the LLA. “With that in mind, the association began urging our members to get in touch with elected officials to voice their opinions.”
Member survey conducted
Additionally, the association created an email-response survey of its members about the issue, allowing seven days for feedback.
“The survey had 1,171 responses that overwhelmingly reported opposition to a name change,” Morris said. “Issues covered included the complexity of the change, and its effect on tourism and local history.”
A question about removing “Sidney” from the name of Lake Lanier was also posed. Morris said, “Nearly 65 percent of respondents agreed that changing the name to ‘Lake Lanier’ would be a good choice because it is the predominant name in the area. Lake Lanier is recognized nationally as perhaps the most-visited Corps lake in the country, and there is no reason to force the enormous costs and inconvenience of a name change on area organizations, schools, buildings, businesses, streets, and the only major resort on the lake when the predominant name in the region can be preserved without commemorating Sidney Lanier, the Confederate soldier.” As far as renaming Buford Dam, 98 percent of the respondents were opposed.
A bit of background
In 2021, Congress enacted the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 that directed “the establishment of a commission relating to assigning, modifying, or removing of names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia to assets of the Department of Defense that commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.”
As a result, Congress created a commission to review all Department of Defense facilities, including Corps of Engineers properties.
“Both Buford Dam and Lake Lanier were put on the list because these projects bear the names of two men who voluntarily served in the Confederacy,” Morris said. “However, the names chosen for Buford Dam and Lake Lanier were not selected to commemorate these two men’s military service.
“Both Buford and Lanier volunteered for the Confederate Army,” Morris said. “But when the projects were named, their military service didn’t come into play.”
Algernon Buford, for whom the city of Buford is named, was a railroad man, the president of the Richmond & Danville Railroad that came south to Buford. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia and a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
“Buford Dam was named after the nearby city, strictly on its location,” he said. “It has nothing to do with Algernon Buford’s military service.”
Sidney Lanier was much more than a soldier as well. “He was a poet, a musician, a lawyer and taught at Johns Hopkins University,” Morris said. “Lake Lanier was named after him because of his poem, ‘The Song of the Chattahoochee,’ that described the area that became the lake.”
For more info, visit the Lake Lanier Association at www.lakelanier.org.