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Abandoned boats, docks eyesore on Lanier

FORSYTH COUNTY – Forsyth County officials took a step toward cleaning Lake Lanier of abandoned vessels this week.

The Forsyth County commission voted 4-0 Tuesday, with Commissioner Brian Tam absent, to authorize up to $5,000 in matching funds to the Lake Lanier Association for the cleanup of abandoned docks and vessels on the lake.

Joanna Cloud, executive director of the association, said the state had allocated $25,000 in next year’s budget for vessel removal on the lake, though the majority of that money will go to removing a boat in Hall County she said was “completely sunken.”

“It would be terrific if we could get some support from the counties to basically stretch the funds as much as we can,” she said.

She said Hall County officials recently decided to reimburse up to $15,000 for vessel and dock removal.

The second priority of the cleanup is a steel-hulled houseboat in Forsyth County that has sat unmoved on the shoreline for at least five years.

“You pull up to this thing and it looks like a monument,” Cloud said. “One of the neighbors tried to put their house on the market about a year ago, and a real estate agent came out and said, ‘Don’t even list this. You won’t get your money for the property while this is sitting here.’”

Cloud said since the boat is made of steel, it is hard to cut, it is heavy and there isn’t much of a salvage market.

“We’ve looked at moving it both by land and by water. We’re thinking that it is going to cost us $8,000-$10,000 using a vendor by water… then we have to pull it to a boat ramp and get it on a trailer,” she said.

Cloud said the boat sank and had to be floated but that the owner had refused to pay, and that the house had been foreclosed on and the owner had no other assets.

She said a judge required that the owner repay $5,000 to the vendor who floated the boat but did not require the owner to remove the boat.

The owner did not pay the vendor and cannot be located, she said.

“I have since talked to the Atlanta district attorney about whether they’re going to chase this guy,” Cloud said. “It’s a $5,000 judgment on a federal case, and the Atlanta D.A. has much bigger fish to fry … so, really this is a community issue.”

Though the cleanup would typically fall under the Army Corps of Engineers, Cloud said there isn’t enough funding for them to pursue the cleanup.

“So far we have not gotten the support from the corps that we would like,” she said. “What we’re being told at the project office is that their hands are tied on this and that it is a federal issue and would literally take an act of Congress.”