The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is listening to the responses of local boaters to a new law that would require all boaters to obtain a permit prior to short- or long-term anchoring.
The law was passed in the last legislative session and becomes effective January 1, Doug Haymans, director of the DNR’s coastal resources division, told Trade Only Today. “The boating public feels like it didn’t have any input on the law,” he said.
The DNR held a public meeting in Brunswick, Ga., on June 17 and 68 people showed up. Many were upset with the new law.
Public comment on Chapter 391-2-3, Coastal Marshlands Protection Regulations and Wildlife Resources Division, Chapter 391-4-5, Boating Regulations, closes on July 15.
What boaters oppose most is having to pay for a permit to anchor, even for one night. In a letter to the editor of the Coastal Courier newspaper, former Georgia state representative Jack White wrote, “The bill was ill-conceived from the start. Legislators only heard from DNR and the Georgia Marine Business Association. . .Most importantly, the general boating public was unaware of the bill until it had already passed.”
In its current form, the law would require anyone anchoring in coastal Georgia waters to purchase a permit for $5 per night or up to $240 for a year.
Haymans said the intent of having to buy permits was an attempt to “get a handle on vessels on anchor on Georgia coasts because of derelict boats and the dumping of raw sewage.” The law prohibits discharge of treated or untreated sewage from live-aboard vessels. “We are re-evaluating what the rule says and how it will implemented,” said Haymans. “We’ll be going back to the drawing board.”
Burgeoning shellfish beds on the Georgia coast have also entered into the debate. Haymans said the DNR would like to establish exclusion zones around some beds. “We’re not trying to establish anchorages,” he said. “We’re trying to say the state of Georgia is open to anchoring, just not in some areas.”
Other issues that still need to be addressed include vessels that anchor too closely to private waterfront property.
“We’re looking at all of it, including what’s the appropriate distance from a structure,” said Haymans. “We understand people have issues with permitting or registering. Folks who want to live aboard want to get away from big brother.”
He continued, “I understand that 99 percent of the folks are abiding by the rules and doing what they should. We’ll find the compromise.”