Lake Lanier dwellers wanting a boat dock permit but who have put off seeking one might want to put that task atop their to-do list.
Years after setting a limit of 10,615 docks on the shoreline, the Army Corps of Engineers has about 30 permits left, Park Ranger Russell Lundstrum said.
“I estimate by the spring is when we’ll have (the distribution process) wrapped up,” he said.
The corps has used a couple different methods to distribute the permits since 2004, when the cap was set by the agency’s Shoreline Management Plan and environmental impact statement.
Initially, the agency tried a first-come, first-serve method, then stopped accepting applications in April 2007 when a drought gripped the Southeast and sent lake levels plunging.
Lanier dropped to a historic low water level of 1,050.79 feet above sea level on Dec. 26, 2007, with full pool at 1,071 feet in the summer and 1,070 feet in winter. The drought also caused issues for existing docks, many of which were on dry land.
In 2009, the corps went to a lottery to distribute the remaining permits — nearly 174 at that point.
“It’s a very orderly way to do things,” Chief Ranger Ernest Noe said at the time.
But that still didn’t exhaust permits, so the corps reverted in September 2014 to first-come, first-serve.
Overall, the process had been a slow one for applicants and the corps.
“About one out of every 10 to 15 requests are approved,” Lundstrum said. “They don’t meet site requirements for one reason or another.”
But for those who have them, it’s a valuable asset.
“It’s much easier to sell a lot on the lake that does have a permit,” Lundstrum said.
Rich York, who bought a lakefront home off Browns Bridge Road in West Hall County in 2003, said he was able to transfer the permit from the previous owner and renew the five-year permit in 2013. It’s been smooth sailing, so far.
With the renewal, “as long as you’re not changing anything, it’s really just filling out the paperwork and sending in your money,” York said.
“The process seems to take a long time ... and I know (the corps) has had challenges keeping the paperwork straight from time to time, but I’ve had not had any serious issues with that.”
Overall, “I think the dock permits process has been consistent to what we have experienced in the past,” said Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Lake Lanier Association.
The association’s “bigger concern over the actual dock permit process is more (about) how existing permits are being handled in terms of the Shoreline Management Plan,” she said.
Her group has been vigorously pursuing removal of sunken docks and vessels along the shoreline.
“Some violations don’t seem to be noticed or enforced at all,” Cloud said.
Also, she noted, corps-operated Lake Hartwell, allows permanent shade structures on docks but “those are not allowed at Lake Lanier.”
“Certainly, when we get to the next go-round of (shoreline plan) revision, these are items the (Lake Lanier Association) will submit as part of the public comments,” Cloud said.
Even as the distribution of permits draws to a close, the number of permits will continue to fluctuate — permits for an existing dock not being renewed, for example.
“We’ll still take applications, and there’ll be a waiting list,” Lundstrum said.