JEFFERSON — A new set of regulations for using the Bear Creek Reservoir covers boat length, times of operation, bank fishing and rule enforcement.
The reservoir, off Ga. 330 near Bogart, is regulated by the four member counties of the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority — Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties — with Jackson County having the responsibility of maintaining it. It is used primarily for drinking water use by the member counties. Many people also go fishing on the property.
The rules and regulations adopted last week by the Jackson County Commission went before the commission earlier this summer but voting was postponed so residents’ concerns could be addressed.
Several residents, many of whom live adjacent to the reservoir, spoke against adoption at that commission meeting, citing their limited use of the facility and other restrictions as reasons not to adopt the rules.
Chairman Hunter Bicknell advised the residents to attend the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority’s July meeting to get the rules changed, and many did.
The authority made some slight changes, such as changing the boat length requirement from 16 feet to 18 feet, and gave the rules back to the commission for a vote.
But the commission’s approval didn’t come without considerable discussion and some opposition to the rules.
Bicknell and Commissioners Bruce Yates and Dwain Smith voted in favor of the regulations with one change — boat length would be increased to 20 feet. Commissioner Chas Hardy voted against adopting the rules and Commissioner Tom Crow abstained from the vote.
County attorney Julius Hulsey said he sat down with County Manager Darrell Hampton and Parks and Recreation Director Ricky Sanders to iron out all the rules and incorporate the residents’ issues.
He suggested adding an item requiring boats with batteries to have them attached to their boats "to avoid falling in the waters of the reservoir (and) to avoid contamination" since the reservoir is used primarily for drinking water.
Hardy objected to the battery requirement, which wasn’t added to the rules and regulations approved at the meeting, and expressed his disagreement with the way the water authority handled adoption of the rules and regulations.
"I’m concerned about the heavy handedness of the authority in general," he said. "They weren’t willing to listen to anything we had to say until 40 citizens showed up at their meeting. Then they were willing to listen."
Bicknell acknowledged Hardy’s opinion and said most of the residents’ issues were addressed in the amended rules.
"In reality, you’re correct — a large number of people showed up to the public meeting to exercise their right to speak in opposition to something is always going to be reflected in the outcome," he said. "Ninety-five percent of what was originally proposed is still in here. It was just a few items that were objectionable to a large group of people, and those items have been corrected."