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Corps returns to system for dock permits
Remaining ones will be on first-come, first-serve basis
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has finished reviewing dock permit applications filed a couple of years ago as part of a lottery effort to hand out remaining dock permits. But theres a handful of dock permits left, so the corps plans to revert to first-come, first-served around Labor Day. - photo by Scott Rogers

GAINESVILLE — A five-year lottery system didn’t complete the task, so the Army Corps of Engineers plans to revert to a first-come, first-serve basis for issuing the remaining boat dock permits on Lake Lanier.

The corps began the lottery in 2009 with 187 available permits and ended up approving 121 permit “equivalents” out of 281 requests, with a permit either serving as a single dock or two slips in a community dock, said Chief Ranger Ernest Noe.

Nearly 200 requests overall were rejected.

However, “some of the requests submitted were found to not be for new permits at all,” Noe said. “They were for upgrades and didn’t need to be in the lottery process.”

Corps officials will announce the final number available when they start the first-come, first-serve process, sometime after Labor Day, the ranger said.

Lanier’s 2004 Shoreline Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement set the docks limit at 10,615.

The corps stopped issuing permits when drought struck the Southeast in 2007 and drained Lanier to a historic low of 1,050.79 feet above sea level Dec. 26, 2007.

The corps decided in June 2009 to restart issuing permits, but only after Lanier’s elevation had stayed consistently above 1,064 feet, and to go with the lottery.

“We believed it was the fairest way [to issue permits],” Noe said in August 2009. “It’s a very orderly way to do things.”

The lottery was in October 2009 at the SpringHill Suites in Buford.

Dock reviews began later, then halted in September 2011 after another dry period had dropped the lake below 1,064 feet.

The corps was able to resume in March 2012 and stay on the task, as 2013 would go on to become one of Hall County’s wettest years on record.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the lake stood at 1,070.64 feet, or just a few inches below the full pool of 1,071 feet.

“This process went slower than I would have liked, but we wanted to be sure that all requests were thoroughly reviewed and no one was overlooked,” Noe said.

Still, the lottery process went generally well, he said.

Those requesting permits “were for the most part patient and we were able to work our way through the process without many issues,” Noe said.

Some challenges did crop up when lake property changed owners.

“When we’d call the owner information that we had on file, we got the previous owner and some of them didn’t have the new owner’s information,” Noe said.

Also, some property owners appealed their denial.

“We were by the book on these issues and had a panel reviewing all requests, approved or denied,” Noe said.

“The panel was very diligent in finding issues before the final decision was determined. All denial appeals were upheld and responded to.”