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Counties along Lanier may team up to tackle eyesores

FORSYTH COUNTY — Forsyth could soon be working with other counties that border Lake Lanier to address the issue of abandoned docks and boats.

During a discussion at the county commission work session Tuesday, Commissioner Pete Amos volunteered to get in touch with representatives of the Hall, Gwinnett, Dawson and Lumpkin County governments to explore the matter.

Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Lake Lanier Association, told commissioners that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to deal with the vessels. However, due to the corps’ size and finances, it likely would be more effective for the counties to take on the task.

“It kind of comes down to funding,” said Cloud, a Forsyth resident. “They feel like they are resource restrained, and I understand that. They also don’t feel the pain financially on some of these things.

“If we have a dock that is in a derelict state, the corps doesn’t lose any money on that, they’re not missing out on dock revenue. Now, Forsyth County does.”

Cloud said there was a “whole host of issues” tied to abandoned docks and vessels, chief among the common difficulty in determining the owner.

For the counties, Cloud said the association was looking for something to deal with issues where the owner is known, but not in compliance and perhaps “not motivated to go resolve this particular issue.”

In some of those situations, Cloud said the association is able to speak with the owners but can’t take action.

“We had a sailboat in Bald Ridge [Creek area] … that owner was there, I talked to him on the phone,” she said. “He was there paying his property taxes and he just left this sailboat that was just about broken in half [for] 10 years.

“We have one over in Hall County where a woman got a divorce, ugly divorce … she let the boat sink.”

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said there are options.

“This could look a lot of different ways,” Jarrard said. “For instance, the corps of engineers might be receptive to [a memorandum of understanding] for us to begin to try to enforce rules that they already have, or it could be separate ordinance altogether.”

Jarrard said he wasn’t sure about the potential costs of an ordinance, but that using local governments likely would be “more streamlined” than going  through the corps.

According to Cloud, no counties bordering the lake have these type of rules in place.

During the meeting commissioners appeared to favor all five counties having a similar ordinance, but no official action was taken.