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Abandoned boat removed from Lake Lanier at Forsyth-Gwinnett County line
Getting rid of eyesore required lengthy legal process
Workers examine a 19-foot boat that had been abandoned in Lake Lanier. After a year of legal wrangling, the vessel was removed Wednesday at East Bank Park and will be taken to a landfill for disposal. - photo by Micah Green

LAKE LANIER — It may not have seemed an abnormal sight to some, but the removal Wednesday of a rusted, stripped boat from Lake Lanier was the result of a yearlong legal process involving several agencies. And it’s not the only floating abandoned property.

There are at least 12 such vessels on the lake known to the Lake Lanier Association, according to Joanna Cloud, the group’s executive director. That does not include the nearly 15 docks that are not in use.

Combined, they create an eyesore to lake-goers and residents. But getting them off the water is harder said than done.

“The state doesn’t title vessels, so there’s no good way of tracking ownership,” Cloud said. “This boat is completely stripped — no engine, battery, steering wheel, hardware … so we had no way of knowing where it came from or whose it was.”

Travis Terry of Terry’s Auto Towing Service and Robert Estrada of TowBoatUS Lake Lanier each said they receive calls “all the time” about unsightly, unused and unkempt boats and docks, though they’re not allowed to remove them without completing a legal process that declares them abandoned.

Part of that process includes advertising it as abandoned property. The 19-foot fiberglass hull runabout from Wednesday had been found a year ago, beached on the shoreline of Lanier Park in Gwinnett County. The advertisements generated no interest.

The boat had to be pulled to the shoreline of nearby East Bank Park, one cove over. Both parks are east of Buford Dam, near where Forsyth and Gwinnett counties meet.

Because the tow companies volunteered their services and the Richmond Hill Landfill in southeast Georgia waived a dumping fee, the only out-of-pocket cost was a $100 legal fee the lake association paid. The boat was given a zero dollar value.

“The Department of Natural Resources does not have designated funding to remove abandoned vessels,” said Nick Baggett, natural resources manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake with DNR. “We hope to someday, but right now we couldn’t do this without these in-kind services.”

Baggett said DNR runs a registration number if it is posted on the boat — it rarely is — to contact the owner in an effort to hold someone accountable. Often, it is not the current owner.

The corps and DNR have already worked with the lake association to remove two or three vessels, he said.

“We’re actively trying to find where [more] are,” said, John Barker, also a director of the association, “and get them off the water.”