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Seaplane pilots group wants right to land on Lanier
Lanier Seaplane Pilots Association working through process with Army Corps
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A group of area pilots is still pushing to get the Army Corps of Engineers’ permission to land their seaplanes on Lake Lanier.

Specifically, the Lanier Seaplane Pilots Association is working its way through a list of corps questions, such as whether drones are in the mix of aircraft that might land and how the group would avoid hitting such birds as Canada geese, seagulls and migratory waterfowl.

Troy Wheeler said the group, as it wraps up the questions, may seek a “trial period, maybe during the winter, when there’s very limited activity out there.”

“Right now, it’s in our court to address these (questions) in the best way,” said Wheeler, also president of Lanier Flight Center at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville. “... We just want to try to get access, to start with. Just give us an opportunity.”

The group started its quest to land a couple of years ago, with Wheeler saying the pilots “want to be able to use the lake for recreational use, just like everybody else does.”

He said the group is willing to abide by seaplane guidelines at the corps-run Allatoona Lake in Northwest Georgia.

There, pilots are banned from flying weekends and on national holidays between April 15 and Sept. 15. Also, they can’t land within 500 feet of the shoreline, bridges, overhead power lines, docks or dams, according to the Florida-based Seaplane Pilots Association.

“The pilots are responsible,” Wheeler said. “They’re not going to land out there when (the lake is congested). They’re not going to take that risk.”

Lanier attracts more than 7 million visitors annually.

Wheeler said the group has gotten virtually “no pushback” so far from area residents on its proposal.

Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Lake Lanier Association, said there were some rumblings about noise the planes might cause, but “to my knowledge, there have not been problems at any of the other lakes (where they’re permitted), and I’ve reached out to my lake counterparts.”

From the association’s standpoint, “we are not tremendously concerned about seaplanes,” she said. “I kind of feel like we’ve got other safety issues to concern ourselves with, at this point.”

The pilots group started the formal process in 2013, flying to the corps’ district offices in Mobile, Ala.

Corps spokesman Pat Robbins has said questions posed to the group — what has been called an environmental assessment — would require pilots to consider several landing options, including “locations throughout the lake that could meet their needs but generally lack civil infrastructure, such as bridges and transmission lines.”

Once the assessment is completed, the corps would publish a public notice and allow 45 days for the public to review the proposal, Robbins said.

“Any issues raised in the public review would need to be addressed, and when all is completed, they would present the package for a decision by the commander,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Seaplane Pilots Association has joined in helping the local group convince the corps to permit the activity.

“Bottom line is seaplane pilots want to be an asset to the local economy and community, and through access to Lake Lanier, want to be a highly competitive and trouble-free user group,” the group stated in a March 9 letter.

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