News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Georgia Still Wrestling with Anchoring Regs

Date Posted: 2019-08-07
Source: Ed Tillett, Editor-In-Chief

Georgia says its new anchoring regulations and requirements for persons sleeping on boats are sensible and require little change. Many boating industry representatives disagree and continue to push for changes that will soften enforcement options related to where, when and how vessels may anchor in the coastal waters of the state.

Following on the heels of the public comment period for Georgia’s new anchoring laws, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held an informal stakeholders meeting on July 31, 2019 comprising members of its staff and representatives from various boating groups. The objective of the session was to report the latest actions specific to anchoring permits, associated fees and to gather more information from the boating industry about its positions on the new regulations.

House Bill 201 (HB201) was signed into law in May 2019 and provides sweeping changes to laws that govern vessels anchoring in the coastal waters of the state as well as those docked at marinas if a person spends the night aboard. The new law goes into effect January 1, 2020 and carries criminal penalties for violations.

Georgia DNR maintains that at the heart of the issue is an effort by the state to better manage “live-aboard” vessels and the potential impact those boats have on the environment. Also propelling the new regulations is an increase in the number of abandoned and derelict vessels (ADV) in the state and how to deal with them.

DNR reports that over 240 letters and emails were submitted specific to HB201 during the public comment period, which ended July 17, 2019, and represented a historically large number of responses for the department. This issue has galvanized boaters who transit or use the coastal waters of Georgia. Boating industry leaders are also watching this issue as it may set the stage for other states attempting to deal with similar questions.

Doug Haymans, Director of DNR Coastal Resource Division, opened the stakeholder meeting with a report that “permit fees are off the table.” While permits to anchor in the coastal waters of Georgia may still be required, boaters won’t be charged for them.

The two-hour discussion centered on the challenges that Georgia DNR faces in managing irresponsible boat owners who either do not obey pump out regulations or anchor their vessels and leave them unattended, which can result in hazards to navigation, environmental or property damage if they break loose.

DNR reported that shellfish aquaculture activities on the state are on the rise and treated and untreated sewage from vessels anchored near those areas are also a concern. No substantiating data was offered to support that boats are fouling the state’s water quality with sewage. In response, Jack White of Save Georgia’s Anchorages presented figures from Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) revealing the millions of gallons of raw sewage dumped into state waters from municipalities annually. He offered that if every vessel anchored in the state in any given year were to pump its holding tanks the comparison against local sewage releases is inconsequential and irrelevant.

While not specific to the new regulations, DNR is also beginning to explore setback distances where boats must anchor away from structures and protected areas. Stakeholders in attendance argued that other states have arrived at standards for setbacks and that easy-to-follow and understand regulations should be considered. DNR would not agree to a standard and suggested that a patchwork of distances may be necessary due to any number of reasons.

Georgia and other states have wrestled with the nuances of “live-aboards” for many years and how to manage their use of public waterways. Defining a “live-aboard” vessel and persons on those vessels is an underlying issue in HB201. As written, the definition has been scrutinized and challenged by boaters and industry groups. To that end, DNR and state legislative representatives agreed during the meeting to revisit the description as it applies to this measure.

When pressed for some of the underlying reasons for such sweeping changes to Georgia’s laws, DNR representatives stated that complaints from homeowners about anchored vessels in front of their property, including boaters playing loud music and running generators, has contributed to the problems that HB201 is attempting to solve. Boating representatives responded that the depth of new regulations appear to be somewhat heavy handed in view of the apparent small number of irresponsible vessel owners compared to the thousands that transit and enjoy coastal waters each year in the state. Additional observations were provided to DNR that many of the underlying concerns about the new regulations remain, despite the promise that permit fees will be removed.

Director Haymans will present the public comments and his recommendations to members of the DNR Board in August. This will be followed by another public comment period and a public meeting to be announced. DNR may adjust the final rules following this period. The rules will then be submitted to the DNR board for approval and implementation will take place January 1, 2020.

In addition to DNR staff, attending the July 31 meeting were Georgia state Representatives Don Hogan and Ron Stephens; Kim Russo, executive director of America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA) and representative for three other boating groups including Seven Seas Cruising Association (SCCA), Marine Trawler Owner’s Association (MTOA) and DeFever Yacht Owners; Lee Gatts from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA); Charlie Waller owner of Isle of Hope Marina and executive director of Georgia Marine Business Association (GAMBA), and Jack White and James Newsome from Save Georgia’s Anchorages (SGA).

See these links for background and additional information:

BoatUS Position on HB201

NMMA Position on HB201

Cruising World article, July 10, 2019

Cruising World article, June 12, 2019

Waterway Guide article, What Georgia Stands to Lose

Waterway Guide article, Six Problems with Georgia’s New Law

Waterway Guide article, Georgia Anchoring Regs Frighten Boaters

Facebook Page Save Georgia’s Anchorages

 

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  • Comment submitted by STEVEN SANDERS - Wed, Aug 7th

    I've been cruising the East Coast from Maine to Key West most of the last 40 years. With a 6 ft draft I have mostly stayed "outside". This latest effort by the State of Georgia only makes their waters less friendly to boaters like me and gives me another good reason to bypass Georgia from now on.

  • Comment submitted by joe cain - Wed, Aug 7th

    The ecomonic impact of transient boaters is insignificant. The voters of the state and their representatives enact what's important to themselves, it's their state. Either get a slip at a marina........or don't go there. 

  • Comment submitted by Ed - Wed, Aug 7th

    In response to Joe Cain's comments. HB201 doesn't allow boaters to stay on their vessel unless they stay at specific marinas that have pumpouts. So getting a marina is not a solution. Transient boaters add millions of dollars to the Georgia economy. One marina alone reports $1 million in annual revenue from transient vessels. There are 26 full service marinas along the coast. And Georgia does not own the coastal waterways, they are held in public trust by all Americans. The Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard alone manage, patrol and dredge the waterways of Georgia. Those activies are paid for by all Americans. 

  • Comment submitted by Dennis Jansma - Thu, Aug 8th

    The Law makes it a Criminal act to anchor without a permit.  The Criminal act will enable the Forfieture laws. Have A nice boat? Can the local Sherriff can now add it to the county revenue stream?  I'm not a lawyer, maybe a Georgia Lawyer could clarify for us.

  • Comment submitted by Al - Thu, Aug 8th

    Murder is a felony - anchoring without a permit should not be!  I would be inclined to support this law if it were not for the felony conviction.

  • Comment submitted by Ralph - Fri, Aug 9th

    I will be arranging my navigation to totally bypass Georgia if these boating restrictions are going to involve a "criminal charge".   So easy to do ....exit Florida at Fernandina beach and enter north of Georgia....of course waiting for appropriate weather in Florida..... and spending my money in Florida and the Carolinas!

     

  • Comment submitted by Perry McDonald - Fri, Aug 9th

    "When pressed for some of the underlying reasons for such sweeping changes to Georgia’s laws, DNR representatives stated that complaints from homeowners about anchored vessels in front of their property, including boaters playing loud music and running generators, has contributed to the problems that HB201 is attempting to solve. "  This is a lame excuse plain and simple.  How does Georgia handle homeowner complaints on land with loud music being played in a neighborhood late at night; someone's overgrown lawn needs cutting; vehicles jacked up being repaired while the smell of gasoline permeates the house next door or trash cans over flowing in the street by the house next door.  Wake up Georgia you are becoming sycophants to a handful of rich selfish land grabbers or homeowners.

  • Comment submitted by Al - Fri, Aug 9th

    Where was BoatUS at this latest meeting?  This is exactly the type of thing that I pay my dues for!

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