News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Georgia Anchoring Regs Frighten Boaters

Date Posted: 2019-07-02
Source: Ed Tillett, Editor-In-Chief

Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series of timely updates and insights on an issue critical to both cruisers and Georgia residents that is being researched and covered by Waterway Guide Editor-And-Chief, Ed Tillett. We will continue to keep readers informed via our news website, newsletter and on Facebook.

Boaters and boating organizations are expressing fear and confusion over the recent passage of House Bill 201 (HB201) by the Georgia legislature, which was signed into law on May 7, 2019, by Governor Brian Kemp.

Following on the heels of a public hearing in Brunswick, GA on June 17, 2019, social media postings and forums, letters to local news organizations and comments submitted to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources indicate that the latest law passed in Georgia is an issue that is not going away.

Many boaters and organizations are asking how the measure managed to get through the legislature given its far-reaching draconian language and requirements? As written, HB201 requires all boaters who anchor overnight to apply for a permit that must be in their possession or displayed on their vessel. Georgia DNR is now determining the cost of fees for anchoring permits. Boaters are also subject to maintaining logs of when and where they pump out their waste holding tanks. Violation of these regulations carries criminal offenses, as do all provisions of the new laws.

DNR has also been empowered to define where boats may anchor. Current regulations in place by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other state agencies in coastal waters normally define where vessels may not anchor. Georgia has written a law that allows the state to choose specific anchorages and prohibit all other areas.

The history of Georgia’s management of derelict and abandoned boats, as well as problem vessels with persons who live in substandard conditions aboard, appears to be driving the state toward seeking solutions. Conscientious boat owners have presented their opinions in recent weeks that they are not the problem but are being penalized by the state’s attempt to address an ill-defined problem. In summary, these regulations unfairly shift the burden of proof on to boaters to show no harm.

Georgia DNR says that it is attempting to ensure that coastal water quality is maintained for its growing aquaculture industry and that derelict and abandoned vessels require attention. No research or proof has been offered or presented that supports this thesis. See overview and interpretation by DNR here.

Additional concerns with Georgia’s new law include its definition of “liveaboard” as a foundational concept for enforcement, undefined distances for proposed setbacks that vessels at anchor must abide by and enforcement actions that may be undertaken by DNR officers. See Background and Synopsis included in the Proposed Regulation Changes.

Some Georgia residents who spend vacations and weekends on the coast, as well as visiting boaters who transit through, say they are now wary of using the coastal waterways because of the new laws and being subject to criminal offenses.

Written comments are important to the official record and will be accepted through July 15, 2019. You are not required to be a Georgia resident. Send comments to: Kelly Hill, Coastal Resources Division, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, GA 31520. [email protected]



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  • Comment submitted by Capt Steve - Wed, Jul 3rd

    The only thing that gets a politician's attention is money. So when you have to pass through Georgia make every effort to not spend any money there. When you go to boat shows and there are representatives there from Georgia marinas or hotels or other "attractions" make sure you impress on them that since you are not welcome there as a boater you'll be spending your money somewhere else besides Georgia.

    Also, I thought we fought this battle in Florida regarding the use of federal waters for anchoring. How can a state  determine the use of federal waters?

    I hope we don't have to revisit that whole "state's rights" topic again.

  • Comment submitted by Capt Steve - Wed, Jul 3rd

    Google "sewage spills in georgia". News articles will appear showing over 40 million gallons of raw sewage dumped into Georgia waterways since November 2018.

    400,000 gallons of raw sewage dumped April 22nd in Tucker Georgia. It's hard to believe that boaters are the problem here....or anywhere else. Do the same search for almost any state and you'll see the same results.

    Far and away, the biggest offenders are the states themselves.

  • Comment submitted by Joe Cain - Wed, Jul 3rd

    All boaters don't have a problem with this.

    A few boaters have a difficulty. 

    Go to a marina.

    Problem solved

    If you don't like the way someplace does things...don't go there 

  • Comment submitted by Wally Moran - Wed, Jul 3rd

    Ed makes some excellent points here. One of the major issues is that the DNR is considering,  based on comments from the DNR representative Doug Haymans, at the public meeting in Brunswick in June, is different setbacks based on the area under discussion. Thus, one anchorage may be subject to a 100 yard setback, while another may be subject to a 100 foot setback. Obviously, tracking these regulations as well as obeying them will be a monumental challenge for the transient boater.
    Frankly, the idea is beyond ridiculous and needs to be quashed - hopefully, the DNR will abandon this concept, as well as the entirety of this poorly conceived legislation. If you wish to be part of the efforts against it, join us at

  • Comment submitted by Wally Moran - Wed, Jul 3rd

    One of the commenters here, Joe Cain, suggests that only a few boaters have issues with the Georgia bill HB201. Unlike Mr. Cain, I was in the Brunswick meeting with over 70 boaters, plus representatives from over a half dozen boating organizations including Boat US, NMMA, Waterway Guide and Save Georgia's Anchorages, two Georgia State house representatives and one past house rep. Not one individual spoke in favour of this bill - including the state house reps.
    This bill is universally derided by boaters, boating representatives/organizations and politicians. In fact, in over a month's worth of discussion, Mr. Cain is the sole supporter I've heard from.
    Just so that we're clear about what's actually going on here.

  • Comment submitted by Capt Robert Beringer - Thu, Jul 4th

    Another example of shortsighted, misguided legislation. The only parts of GA I want to see anymore are st. Mary and Savannah's inlets.

  • Comment submitted by John Keller - Thu, Jul 4th

    Georgia will be easy to bypass. Savanna is a wonderful city but a pain to visit. Fields Cut on the ICW can be a nightmare. North bound I’ll travel from Fernandina to Charleston to avoid this mess. Your loss Georgia. 

  • Comment submitted by Captain Mitch - Fri, Jul 5th

    The state has no jurisdiction in Federal waters dredged and kept open with federal dollars. Also, much Of Georgia's ICW is way overdue for dredging. Some areas in "the sounds" are less than 5' deep. So if the legislature wants to attempt to extract fees from pleasure craft transiting their ICW we will just go on the outside and not buy fuel, or dinner or overnight slip!

  • Comment submitted by Ralph Dembowczyk - Fri, Jul 5th

    The first step is get Don Hogan, the state rep for St. Simons Island voted

    out of office , he sponsored this bill!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Brunswick area has four Superfund sites that have probably been lingering for remediation for decades. Where have the politicians been ????   IS THAT NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN THIS BILL.

    Contaminated fish and water that our citizens ingest !!!!!

    Very little public notice if any of these proposals!!!

    This bill is a disgrace and a "fast one " perpetrated on boaters. I live 

    In Brunswick ,own a sailboat and am seriously considering moving the boat to Florida.  I pay enough in taxes and personal property tax in Georgia and this is how they treat us   !!!!!!!!!


  • Comment submitted by Joe Cain - Sat, Jul 6th


    You support my case ! You mention all of 70 people at the meeting. What are the total # of Georgia boats registered ?

    Then devide 70 into that # and you get the percentage of people who don't like this's nothing.  Boaters who traverse that state(like myself)  are not important.......they don't vote in state elections. Remember how the system works.

    Flordia has already enacted less strict(for the moment) legislation. Can you anchor anywhere in Lauderdale or Miami ?  

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