How to help
Anyone interested in Lake Lanier Association’s solar lights program, including sponsoring a light, can visit http://lakelanier.org/safe-lake-initiatives/ or call 770-503-7757.
Bill Tannahill saw firsthand how glowing solar lights placed atop hazard markers in Lake Lanier helped him and his family find the way home on a very dark night.
“Not that these lights are for navigation, but I could clearly see where I needed to go,” said the Forsyth County man and chairman of Lake Lanier Association’s solar lights committee.
The Gainesville-based association has placed 123 lights on the lake, south of Browns Bridge, since the program started in 2013.
And, with Army Corps of Engineers permission, the group hopes to install 75-100 lights on hazard markers north of Browns Bridge, which crosses between Forsyth and Hall counties.
The corps, which governs Lake Lanier, wants “to make sure we are capable of monitoring 123 lights,” Tannahill said.
To help ensure that will happen, the association is developing an effort to have homeowners help with monitoring lights they can see from their house, Tannahill said.
“No one would have to go on the lake. They would just simply look out their window,” he said. “We’re working on a computer-assisted program that will remind the homeowner when it is time to make sure the lights are working.
“All they have to do is push the right key to let us know the lights are functioning or that we need to take action to repair them.”
The corps initially resisted the program, giving in after much discussion with the lake group.
“This is going to be their baby,” said Tim Rainey, the corps’ operations project manager at Lake Lanier, in June 2013.
“We’re going to agree to it, even with the increased liability that it brings, but it will be up to the (association) to maintain the lights. If one of the markers goes down, we’ll put it back up. That’s going to be our contribution.”
Tannahill has pushed the initiative for more than a dozen years.
“At that time, the lake was really down and hazards were all over the place,” he said. “I was afraid that could present real safety issues for the nighttime boaters, especially fishermen.”
After tragedies on the lake in the summer of 2012 put boating safety in the spotlight, resulting in new state laws, the lake group approached Tannahill about his plan.
“I had to dig up all of my information and get started again,” he said.
Earlier this year, after the program had been in place for a year, the association surveyed lake users.
“We had a 100 percent positive (response),” Tannahill said.
“We feel comfortable that once we get going, we can do it,” Tannahill said
Individual lights may be sponsored for $250 each.
However, “if anybody is interested in any portion of safety on the lake, we’re always looking for people who want to help out and get involved,” Tannahill said.