The dwindling number of open boat ramps on Lake Lanier likely will go up after Hall County officials announced at Monday’s work session that four ramps could be extended.
"(The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) basically gave us the go-ahead," said County Engineer Kevin McInturff.
Balus Creek, Sardis Creek, Mountain View and Thompson Bridge are the four ramps selected for extension based on evaluations by Hall County engineers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "These were the ones we felt like we’d get the biggest bang for our buck and were the easiest to extend," said Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell.
The cost would be approximately $25,000 per ramp for a total of $110,000, which includes a 10 percent buffer, said Ken Rearden, director of public works.
The county originally planned to temporarily extend some of the closed ramps using gravel, in hopes they could open immediately and bring in revenue through the end of the summer.
But Rearden said the Corps of Engineers recommended waiting and constructing permanent additions.
"They did not recommend us doing the gravel," Rearden said. "The average life of that gravel was about three days."
Powell said he is in favor of paying for the more stable and permanent ramp extensions.
"When we do something, I want to do it right, and I think concrete is the way to do it," Powell said. "I never really had much faith in the gravel idea."
No tax dollars will be used in the costly ramp extensions, Hall County Finance Director Michaela Thompson said.
The money for the projects will come from a fund for parks and marinas, which is a collection of rental and leasing fees for Lake Lanier and surrounding parks.
Fees paid to reserve the county facilities are set aside and then spent on improvements to those areas, Thompson said.
This qualifies as something we can spend the money on," Powell said.
Hall County budget officer Jeremy Perry said currently there is about $700,000 in the fund, which will cover the $110,000 project.
The method of building the extension, not the extension itself, is what’s so expensive.
McInturff said to get the most use out the extension, it must be built where there is water currently. To do so, a special dam will be built around the area so water can be pumped out, leaving dry land to build on.
By building there, the ramp can be used at very low water levels.
These ramps would be usable even if the lake gets down to 1,048 feet, McInturff said.
"It allows (the lake) to go down another three-and-a-half feet almost," McInturff said. "If the lake goes much below that, the underwater hazards become more numerous."
Some surrounding counties also have had to deal with the financial burden of closed boat ramps.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently closed the War Hill Park ramp in Dawson County.
Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner said instead of building a dam, they will wait until the water gets to the lowest point of the year and extend the ramp at the water’s edge.
That method will only allow the ramp to be used once the water level rises.
"It’s the only choice we got," Tanner said. "We just don’t have the funding to do the other method."
Though building a dam to extend a ramp would make it immediately available for use after construction is completed, waiting for more water only will cost Dawson County $3,000.
Though no time frame has been established, Rearden said he would like to see plans complete by the end of the month.
"We’ll start surveying this week," Rearden said. "We just got a lot more homework. I think it’s going to be a good thing."