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Styrofoam graveyard cleaned up in Lake Lanier cove, thanks to drought
James Watson, left, assistant manager at Lake Lanier Olympic Park, and Jay Lawson of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau, clean up debris from a dried-up cove off Lake Lanier.

The area’s worsening drought showed one benefit on Thursday: Barren shoreline allowed workers to get rid of a longstanding “Styrofoam graveyard” from a Lake Lanier cove off Clarks Bridge Road.

Several groups, including Keep Hall Beautiful, Gainesville/Hall ’96 and Lake Lanier Association, ended up removing tons of Styrofoam debris from the area, which is near the Lake Lanier Olympic Park.

“This is a big day for us,” Keep Hall Beautiful director Kelly Norman said. “I’ve had this job for four years now, and this is probably in the top five, for sure, of things we’ve done.

“So many organizations have been involved. It’s been awe-inspiring, from a community standpoint.”

Volunteers spent Thursday morning hauling debris from the receding shoreline, with Scott Webber of Webber Farm Bush Hogging, Grading & Hauling operating a front-end loader.

But the groups didn’t have unlimited clearing authority.

They had to get permission for the effort from the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls shoreline around Lake Lanier. The agency noted that natural debris is part of the ecosystem, Norman said.

“One of the stipulations was … we couldn’t go in and clear-cut (the shore),” she said. “We have to leave as much of the natural habitat as possible. We agreed to do as little damage to the area as possible.”

Officials estimated as much as 15 tons of debris, but possibly more, was pulled from the shoreline. The debris will be taken to county landfill, with the Hall County Board of Commissioners having voted to waive landfill fees for up to 25 tons.

“We appreciate your leadership and service,” Commissioner Billy Powell said at that meeting.

Although the cove has long been a catch basin for Styrofoam and other debris, cleaning up the area didn’t become an initiative until the Lake Lanier Association-sponsored Shore Sweep in September.

Webber approached volunteers at the event and said he could bush hog an area where workers could gain access to the dried-up cove.

“He just basically donated his time and equipment and Kelly coordinated all the cleanup,” said Jay Lawson of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Celeina Houston, who lives next to the cove and has a house overlooking the lake, was appreciative of the effort.

“This is so valuable, because we’ve looking at this for so long, even when the water was there,” she said. “When we had water back here, (debris) just floated in that general area.”

Asked if there were other areas of concern around the lake, Norman said, “Not of this magnitude. Because of Shore Sweep and that it happens annually, we manage to keep the hot spots under control.”