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Apr. 22, 2019
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Caucus hears Lanier group’s requests for legislation

By Jane Harrison
 
Lake Lanier advocates posed four requests for the Georgia General Assembly to act upon in a meeting with Lanier-area legislators shortly after the session convened last month. The Lake Lanier Association asked the Lanier Legislative Caucus to get behind renewed funding for removal of abandoned vessels, state titling of boats, revision of the interbasin water transfer act and creation of a state water study committee.
 
LLA Executive Director Joanna Cloud reported at least eight legislators joined caucus chair Renee Unterman at the Capitol meeting Jan. 16. The caucus is composed of senators and representatives from Hall, Gwinnett, Dawson, Forsyth and Lumpkin counties, all with shoreline on Lake Lanier. Buford senator Unterman initiated the caucus in 2012 to focus on lake issues. Since then, it has been influential passing boater safety laws and obtaining funds to get abandoned watercraft off the lake.
 
Cloud said she’s hopeful the legislature will provide another $25,000 through the Department of Natural Resources to continue work begun two years ago to haul off vessels left on the lake, many for years. The initial state investment of $25,000 helped lug four large houseboats left rotting on the lake. The counties chipped in to assist with removal costs of about $12,000-$15,000 per boat.
 
Cloud said LLA took a year to document their success and compose a current inventory of abandoned vessels before submitting another request for money. If awarded, the group targets two watercrafts in Forsyth and the “Ghost Boat,” a derelict houseboat in Lumpkin County.
 
For the fourth year, the caucus heard LLA’s request for boat titling legislation, which last year passed the House but stalled in the Senate. “Now it’s back in the hopper,” Cloud said. The proposed legislation would require state titling of boats above a certain horsepower and when boats are sold.

Proponents say the measure would help trace ownership of abandoned boats, track down theft rings, and make it easier for law enforcement to identify stolen boats. Opponents decry it as another tax and infringement of their freedom on the water. Georgia is one of a few states with no boat title requirement.
 
Caucus members heard two concerns related to Georgia water supply. One, a proposal to revise the state’s interbasin water transfer code looks toward another potential source to quench the state’s thirst: the Tennessee River. The state has long lusted for the plentiful waters of the Tennessee, just across the state line. Georgia lawmakers have at least twice passed resolutions eyeing a tap into what some legislators claim is rightfully Georgia’s flow, but was mapped as belonging to Tennessee due to an 1818 survey error.
 
“If we are ever able to (tap into) the Tennessee River, it would be a huge interbasin transfer,” Cloud said. Current law prohibits any study or plan for water transfers between districts. The proposal would allow consideration of water transfers from rivers with an average of 15 billion gallons per day if it is approved by the entity where the withdrawal point is located.
 
A Georgia water study commission might evaluate the Tennessee River question plus other sources to sustain the state’s growing water needs, Cloud said. She said LLA’s inquiries to former Gov. Nathan Deal a year ago about forming a study committee did not produce one. With new governor Brian Kemp, there may be new opportunities for a committee to research the potential raising of Lanier’s full pool to 1,073 feet, desalinization of coastal water, and construction of additional reservoirs. She proposed such a committee to help Lanier advocates decide which issues to “go hard at or rule out.”

Posted online 2/1/19
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