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Corps reviewing permit for lucrative Lanier regatta
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The Washington University men's rowing team makes its way down the race course at the American Collegiate Rowing Association national championship at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue on May 23. - photo by Erin O. Smith

What: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers whether to allow the American Collegiate Rowing Association national championship May 28-29

Where: parks.lanier@usace.army.mil

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing whether to again allow the collegiate rowing championship at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, something Gainesville officials worry will end the event that generates millions in economic activity.

“This is a huge event,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said of the American Collegiate Rowing Association national championship that’s been held every Memorial Day weekend for the past five years. “Hopefully, everything’s going to be OK.”

The corps has long had a policy of restricting major events on the lake during holiday weekends, though some exceptions and permits are granted.

The regatta is one of 15 events on the water that the Olympic venue can host annually, per an agreement with the corps.

Lisa Parker, spokeswoman for the corps’ Mobile District, said the review of whether to issue a permit for the regatta next year is a matter of due diligence.

The overarching policy, she added, is aimed at preventing intrusive, high-impact events such as speed boat racing from taking place on holiday weekends when lake use traffic is at its peak.

“Whenever there are environmental impacts ... they always have to get permits,” Parker said. “But it’s going to be on a case-by-case basis.”

The policy applies to all recreational lakes in the state and is not likely to affect annual July Fourth  fireworks events, for example.

The regatta stretches across a three-quarter mile area of the lake near Clarks Bridge Road.

The event has an estimated
economic impact of $1.6 million, according to Olympic venue manager Morgan House, and it brings in some 1,500 college athletes and 1,000 spectators during its two days.

House said losing the regatta would have a domino effect on the venue’s ability to attract these athletes for training at the lake during spring break, which generates additional revenue.

The corps has identified obvious impacts on the narrow channel where the venue is located, something House acknowledged even while indicating that boats can still navigate the waterway at slow speeds.

Access for large sailboats, for example, is already restricted because of low bridges nearby. 

The corps is currently accepting public comment on its consideration of a direct request for special consideration from the American Collegiate Rowing Association to continue holding the regatta at Lake Lanier.

“I do not see this being a denial,” Parker said, adding that upholding the policy requires the corps to retain the “flexibility to say no.” 

Gainesville officials have urged residents to show their support for the event.

“If there’s any negative input, we need positive input,” Dunagan said.

Public comment on the permit review for the regatta can be emailed to parks.lanier@usace.army.mil.

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