Even as it is working to permit new docks on Lake Lanier, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hoping to some day get rid of abandoned — and often unsightly — ones in an effort with the Lake Lanier Association.
“We want to work out some situation where we can use the contractors that are on the lake (for the effort) — the ones that build and replace docks, put in riprap, do silt removal,” said Chris Lovelady, the corps’ assistant operation projects manager at Lake Lanier.
“They have the equipment necessary to pull in and remove these (docks) easily.”
The corps has some federal stimulus to pay for the effort.
“We (need to) get through the summer first and through some of the stimulus spending we’re doing (now), then start focusing on (the abandoned docks),” Lovelady said.
He said he would like to see the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association help run the program.
“They can work with the contractors,” he said, noting that such crews lend a big hand in the association’s annual Shore Sweep.
“When they show up with their barges and their staff, they can get more done than 20 people running around in a boat can do.”
The lake has a large number of unsightly items afloat.
“When you start adding docks with general debris and then abandoned boats, there’s quite a bit out there,” Lovelady said.
“Over time, and especially with the economy like it is, when people lose something or can’t afford to keep it, I guess some of that stuff is just being turned loose,” he said.
He stressed that “if we can identify an owner, then we’re going to make them responsible for the cost of cleaning it up.”
Government money will be spent on “items that are truly abandoned and there’s no way to prove who it belonged to.”
Jackie Joseph, president of the Lake Lanier Association, said her group is prepared to go forward on the effort.
“We’ve assigned a couple of people to follow through with this,” she said. “... It’s going to be a process.”
She said the association has gotten calls about abandoned docks, especially during the 2007-09 drought that put many docks on dry land. And the deep recession made taking care of a dock less of a priority.
“Our concerns (are) ... to be sure that the docks are properly identified,” Joseph said.
“And to be sure we are removing the proper dock. And ... we would not go to one of the dock builder/removal-type people (for all the work). We would share (the workload) around on an equal basis.”
Joseph estimated the number of abandoned docks on the lake at 100 to 150.
“A lot of these were damaged beyond repair when people didn’t move them out to accommodate the low level,” she said.
Overall, abandoned dock removal is “a good thing for the lake,” Joseph said. “... What we’re looking at is to beautify the lake and take away potential hazards.
“If a dock breaks loose and floats out there a little bit, someone could strike it in the middle of the night and damage their boat or whatever.”
The corps is reviewing applications for about 185 remaining dock permits, a process the agency suspended during the drought.
Fifteen applications have been approved and 21 have been recommended for approval, while another 59 requests have been denied, according to the latest corps data.